How many people in Spain speak English?

Spain in Education First English Proficiency Index

The main official language in Spain is Spanish, alongside other official languages like Catalan, Galician, or Basque. But how many people in Spain speak English? Well, according to a 2012 Eurobarometer report, close to 10.5 million people in Spain, or roughly 22% of the population, speak English as a second language.

Over 43 million people, or 92% of the country, speak Spanish as their primary language. Besides Spain’s main languages, Spanish people also learn other second languages in school, with most pupils being taught English starting at age 6. Nevertheless, a perceived language barrier still persists.

Unlike people in other European countries, especially those in Northern and Scandinavian countries, most Spaniards can only speak their mother tongue.

These numbers make Spain #22 in the world, and #6 in the European Union in terms of non-native English speakers.

22% of Spaniards speak English as a second language
22% of Spaniards speak English as a second language

Number of English Speakers in Spain (General Stats)

Spain is among the top 40% of E.U. member states for its total number of English speakers. But this is only part of the picture. Despite this impressive figure, the English language is not widely spoken locally. 

Percentage-wise, Spain has a much smaller English-speaking population compared to other European nations, especially Scandinavian countries. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers:

E.U. rank by number of English speakersCountryTotal populationPercentage English speakersTotal English speakers
#5The Netherlands16,770,00090.9%15,250,000

According to these figures, not many people speak English in Spain. But what about those who do? How well does the average English-speaking person do? Here are some more in-depth stats to paint a clear picture:

  1. Approximately 10.4 million people speak English as a foreign language in Spain.
  1. Despite its large population of English speakers, only 22% of Spain speaks English.
  1. According to a 2013 poll from Spain’s CIS state research institute, nearly 60% of the Spaniards interviewed at the time said they couldn’t read, write, speak, or understand spoken English.
  1. The remaining 42% of people claimed to have at least basic English skills.
  1. Only a minority of Spanish people were confident in their English level, with 19% claiming to have above-average English skills.
  1. Of the 22% of English speakers in Spain, the average English-speaking Spaniard is likely to speak English at an upper-intermediate level.
  1. The 2023 data from the EF-EPI survey ranks Spain #35 in the world in terms of English proficiency.
  1. According to the same EF-EPI data, Spain ranks 20th out of 27 countries in the E.U. for its English skills.
  1. Statistically, the regions of Asturias and Galicia have the best English speakers in Spain in 2023.
  1. The cities with the best English are Vigo, Gijón, and Oviedo.
  1. Spanish people aged 26-40 who took the EPI test in 2023 were highly proficient at speaking English.
  1. English is the most popular second language in Spanish schools.
  1. According to a 2021 Eurostat report, nearly 100% of primary school pupils in Spain learn English as a foreign language.
CEFR Levels and their EPI score equivalents
CEFR Levels and their EPI score equivalents

Overall, less than 1 in 4 Spaniards speak English. However, those who do speak English in Spain, speak it at an upper-intermediate level on average.

This means that Spaniards who speak English can easily communicate on a variety of topics, being able to understand spoken English and to make themselves understood in most everyday situations. 

Spain is slowly climbing in the ranks both in terms of numbers and proficiency. The number of English speakers has been increasing through the years, especially among the young.

According to previous data published by the EF-EPI website, Spain’s English proficiency has been slowly increasing over the past few years:

  • In 2011, test takers in Spain reached an average score of 477 points.
  • In 2014, the average score rose to a peak of 549.
  • In 2015-2022, Spain’s average EPI score fluctuated between 530-545 points.

Although the score increase isn’t linear, we can notice a trend towards slight improvement.

Sources: EF, El País, Eurostat, Council of Europe, Wikipedia

English Speakers in Spain by Region and Province

Total Number by Region

Over 10 million people speak English in Spain. However, the number of English speakers and their English skills vary by region.

The top 5 Spanish regions with the highest number of English speakers of all levels are:

  • Madrid
  • Catalonia
  • Andalusia
  • Aragon
  • Valencia

Percentage-wise, however, the regions with most English speakers are likely to be:

  • The Balearic Islands
  • Navarre
  • Asturias
  • Cantabria
  • Aragon

Aragon makes it in the top 5 both in terms of total English speakers by numbers, as well as by percentage of its total population.

While there is no clear data on the total number of English speakers for each autonomous region, the INE (Instituto Nacional de Estadística) offers statistics for the total number of speakers by municipality in 2023.

There are over 8,000 municipalities in Spain. The INE has published data on 152 of the largest ones. The many municipalities of Spain are grouped into 17 autonomous regions. Each autonomous region has a capital, named after its home municipality.

Below, we’ll take a look at the number of English speakers of the main municipalities for each region.

We can use this data to extrapolate the average percentage of the English-speaking population by region, assuming the municipality-level trends remain stable at a wider regional scale.

Below you can see the total number of English speakers for each municipality.

Spanish Mun. (Autonomous Region)Number of English Speakers% of Mun. Population
Seville (Andalusia)219,41111%
Zaragoza (Aragon)187,74827.8%
Oviedo (Asturias)67,08730.5%
Palma (Balearic Islands)140,06232.96%
Vitoria-Gasteiz (Basque Country)51,00220%
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Canary Islands)107,9109.5%
Santander (Cantabria)50,80029%
Valladolid* (Castile and León)79,86315%
Toledo (Castilla–La Mancha)24,6213%
Barcelona (Catalonia)522,5489%
Mérida (Extremadura)14,11623.7%
Santiago de Compostela (Galicia)23,57024%
Logroño (La Rioja)40,18326%
Madrid (Madrid)1,243,29818.5%
Murcia (Murcia)120,6997.9%
Pamplona (Navarre)64,42531.58%
Valencia (Valencia)179,3886.9%

* Castile and León don’t have a legally established capital. However, the Valladolid province has the largest population, and the city of Valladolid currently acts as the seat of the legislature, government, and president.

Native Speakers by Province

English is also spoken as a first language by a minority of native speakers living in Spain. Spain’s Anglophone population consists mainly of British immigrants. According to 2020 statistics published by the INE, there are over 250,000 British nationals living in Spain.

A smaller number of English-speaking immigrants in Spain come from The Republic of Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, The U.S., India, and South Africa.

According to a report published by the INE in 2018, the Spanish provinces with the largest Anglophone population are:

  • Alicante
  • Málaga
  • Barcelona
  • Madrid
  • The Balearic Islands

Here’s a list of the top 10 Spanish provinces with the largest native English populations:

ProvinceNative English Speakers
Balearic Islands19,497
Las Palmas16,385
Santa Cruz de Tenerife15,490

English speakers moving to Spain generally live in the sunny south, along the east coast, and in the archipelagos.

Alicante, Málaga, Madrid, and the Balearic Islands are some of the top tourist destinations that receive millions of visitors each year, most of whom are British. The United Kingdom tops the list for visitors in Spain, with roughly 18 million Britons arriving in Spain yearly.

Some of the visiting Brits choose to make Spain their second home. Unsurprisingly, the top tourist destinations coincide with the top provinces with the largest expat communities.

English Skills by Region

The INE offers data on the total number of English speakers with any level of proficiency. But the average English skill varies slightly between regions.

According to data published on the EF official website, the top Spanish regions with the best English speakers are:

  • Asturias
  • Galicia
  • Madrid
  • Basque Country
  • Cantabria

Asturias is the region with the best English skills in 2023, with an average English Proficiency Index (EPI) score of 565 out of 800.

Galicia is very close behind, with a score of 559 out of 800.

Castile-La Mancha and La Rioja are last and second to last in terms of English proficiency, with scores of 498 and 509, respectively.

Here’s a full list of the regions ranked by their 2023 EPI score:

RegionEPI Score (Out of 800)English Proficiency
Basque Country548Moderate
Balearic Islands538Moderate
Castile and Leon535Moderate
Valencian Community527Moderate
Canary Islands526Moderate
La Rioja509Moderate
Castile-La Mancha498Low

Overall, the majority of Spanish regions have moderate English proficiency, with Castile-La Mancha being the only region with a proficiency score below 500.

Madrid and the Northwestern regions of the country have high English proficiency. According to the EF and CEFR standards, people with this level of English knowledge can:

  • Read newspapers and contemporary literary prose in their second language
  • Understand TV news and shows in English spoken in a standard dialect
  • Understand extended speech and complex lines of argument on familiar topics
  • Speak fluently and spontaneously on a variety of familiar topics
  • Present clear and detailed descriptions and viewpoints on a wide range of subjects

The remaining regions have moderate English proficiency. This means that English-speaking Spaniards living in Cantabria, Catalonia, Murcia, Valencia, and other parts of the country should be able to:

  • Understand song lyrics, letters, and texts containing common everyday words
  • Understand the main points in the language spoken on the TV or in everyday conversations
  • Hold a conversation on everyday topics (interests, work, travel, etc.)
  • Speak using basic phrases, simple sentences, and brief explanations
  • Write simple texts and professional emails on familiar topics

The regions that stand out for both total numbers and proficiency are Catalonia, Madrid, Navarre, Asturias, and Cantabria.

Sources: Instituto Nacional de Estadística, The Local, EF, Council of Europe, Wikipedia

English Speakers in Spain by City

Total Numbers by City

As in most parts of the world, people in major cities are more likely to speak English, compared to Spaniards living in smaller towns.

The largest cities have the most well-developed travel industries, as well as the largest job markets. As a result, large cities attract a lot of English-speaking tourists and natives alike.

Spain’s provincial capitals have the largest populations of all the cities in the country. Considering this, the cities with the most English speakers of all levels are likely to be:

  • Madrid
  • Barcelona
  • Seville
  • Zaragoza
  • Valencia
  • Palma
  • Murcia

Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia, in particular, are the largest cities in the country with flourishing hospitality industries. Many signs and restaurant menus in central areas are translated into English.

Hospitality staff, taxi drivers, store clerks, and younger people living in these city centers are also likely to speak English fluently. Outside of central areas, the number of English speakers will be lower, especially among older adults.

Native Speakers by City

The biggest metropolitan areas in Spain are home to a sizeable population of English speakers, a large percentage of whom speak English as a second language. Native English speakers in Spain tend to live in smaller coastal towns.

Here are the top 10 cities with most native English speakers, according to the latest data:

CityPercentage of British residents

The majority of these cities are located in the provinces of Alicante and Málaga. The provinces of Barcelona and Madrid are also home to a sizable population of people who speak English as their main language.

It’s highly likely that the capitals of Barcelona and Madrid also house a good number of native speakers as well, though they make up a smaller percentage of the local population.

English Skills by City

The biggest Spanish cities are most likely to have English speakers of all levels. But where do people speak the best English?

Statistically, the cities with the highest English proficiency in Spain are:

  • Vigo
  • Gijón 
  • Oviedo 
  • La Coruña 
  • Palma de Mallorca 

English speakers living in these metropolitan areas likely have a high level of proficiency. Highly proficient speakers can effortlessly speak and understand the English language, so they can easily maintain a conversation on a wide range of topics.

Education First offers a list of 21 Spanish cities by English skills. Here’s how the remaining cities compare:

CityEPI Score (Out of 800)English Proficiency
La Coruña565High
Palma de Mallorca559High
Santa Cruz de Tenerife554High
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria543Moderate

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it seems like English speakers in the largest Spanish cities have either moderate or high English proficiency.

Madrid had an average EPI score of 558 out of 800 in 2023
Madrid had an average EPI score of 558 out of 800 in 2023

The cities with the lowest proficiency scores in 2023 were:

  • Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
  • Valladolid 
  • Seville 
  • Tarragona 
  • Burgos

Nevertheless, all the cities scored over 500 points, meaning that the average English speaker in these areas can understand English used in everyday communication and they can speak using basic phrases.

Keep in mind that these statistics might not be representative of the cities or regions as a whole. One drawback of the EPI tests is that the population of test-takers is self-selected. This means that people who already have good English knowledge are more likely to take the test, contributing to higher scores.

Sources: Instituto Nacional de Estadística, The Nomad Today, EF

English Speakers in Spain by Demographic Group

English speakers in Spain generally have intermediate to upper-intermediate language skills. Here’s what we know about Spain’s English language demographics:

  • People aged 26-40 years old have high English proficiency according to the EPI data.
  • People under 25 and people over 40 have moderate English proficiency.
  • Both men and women have moderate English proficiency, with scores of 542 and 528, respectively.
  • English is a compulsory school subject in primary and secondary school.
  • Spanish pupils start learning English at 6 years old.
  • According to the CEFR standards, students are expected to reach a B1-B2 language level by the end of secondary school.

We don’t have exact numbers of English speakers by age. But we can assume most of the English speakers in Spain are younger than 40. English first became a compulsory subject in all Spanish schools in 1990, thanks to the education reform codified in the Ley Orgánica de Ordenación General del Sistema Educativo (LOGSE) law.

Spaniards aged 26 to 40 have high English proficiency on average
Spaniards aged 26 to 40 have high English proficiency on average

There’s been a marked yearly increase in English speakers in the younger generations, in particular. According to Mark Levy, head of the British Council in Spain, most teenagers tested by the British Council in 2017 in Madrid and Catalonia had English grades of B and above.

The English language has been receiving more attention in the educational system over the past two decades. Thus, young people are likely to keep improving their listening and speaking skills.

Sources: EF, Council of Europe, Sage Journals, Voice of America


Spain is commonly stereotyped as having low English skills. Indeed, according to recent data, only 22% of the population speaks English. But the situation may not be so bleak.

Spain’s largest cities still have sizable populations of English speakers. Those who do speak English in Spain can hold a fluent conversation on a wide variety of everyday topics.

Likely, the number and level of English speakers in Spain is also on the rise. Increasingly more people under 40 are reaching moderate to high levels of proficiency.


1. Can you get by in Spain with only English?

You can get by in Spain without knowing the Spanish language, at least in the large metropolitan areas. Spain is a beloved destination for many tourists all over the world. 

Unsurprisingly, those visiting can easily find English-speaking staff and bilingual street signs and menus in large tourist areas. 

Learning a few basic Spanish phrases can always come in handy, though. Learning basic Spanish and using a translation app will help you manage the vast majority of public places.

2. Do Spanish people like speaking English?

Most Spanish people will try their best to communicate with you if approached politely. Some might be extremely reluctant to speak English if they’re not confident in their skills.

But overall, Spanish people are happy to communicate in English if that means they can practice their skills and offer a helping hand.

3. Is Spanish TV subbed or dubbed?

The most common translation method for the past 7 decades in Spain has been dubbing.

Foreign TV and cinema are likely to be dubbed, although subtitling is slowly gaining more public approval thanks to online platforms like Netflix.

4. Why do so few Spanish people speak English?

There’s not one single reason behind Spain’s low acquisition of foreign languages. It’s believed that the low number of speakers is a result of multiple factors including the structure of the education system, the use of outdated teaching methods in English classes, and low opportunities for using the English language in daily life.