English-speaking world

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Pie chart showing the percentage of native English speakers living in "inner circle" English-speaking countries. Native speakers are now substantially outnumbered worldwide by second-language speakers of English (not counted in this chart[1]).

  US (64.3%)
  UK (16.7%)
  Canada (5.3%)
  Australia (4.7%)
  South Africa (1.3%)
  Ireland (1.1%)
  New Zealand (1%)
  Other (5.6%)

Approximately 359 million people speak English as their first language.[citation needed] More than half of these (231 million) live in the United States, followed by some 60 million in the United Kingdom, the first place where English was spoken.

English is the third largest language by number of native speakers, after Mandarin and Spanish.[2]

Estimates that include second language speakers vary greatly, from 470 million to more than 1,000 million.[3] When combining native and non-native speakers, English is the most widely spoken language worldwide.[4][5]

Besides the major varieties of English, such as British English, North American English, Australian English and their sub-varieties, countries such as the Philippines, Jamaica and Nigeria also have millions of native speakers of dialect continua ranging from an English-based creole to a more standard version of English, to Jamaicish, a hybrid language.

Majority English-speaking countries[edit]

Map highlighting countries where English is spoken natively by the majority of the population.
  Countries where English is spoken natively by the majority of the population.

There are six countries with a majority of native speakers of English: the United Kingdom (97%, 64 million),[6] Ireland (94%, 4.3 million),[7] Australia (87%, 17 million),[8] New Zealand (82%, 3.7 million),[9] the United States (79%, 255 million),[10] and Canada (59%, 19 million).[11] These six countries are also summarized under the term Anglosphere.

Besides these, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have majorities natively speaking an English creole, or a patois in a "post-creole continuum". Other substantial communities of native speakers are found in South Africa (4.9 million, 30%), Nigeria (4 million, 5%) and Singapore (1 million, 17%).

English is also the primary language in the island states and territories of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, the British Indian Ocean Territory, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Dominica, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Grenada, Guam, Guernsey, Guyana, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Montserrat, Nauru, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Countries where English is an official language[edit]

In some countries where English is not the most spoken language, it is an official language; these countries include Botswana, Cameroon, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines (Philippine English), Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Also there are countries where in a part of the territory English became a co-official language, e.g. Colombia's San Andrés y Providencia and Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast. This was a result of the influence of British colonization in the area.

India has the largest number of second-language speakers (see Indian English);[12][13]

English is one of the 11 official languages that are given equal status in South Africa (South African English). It is also the official language in current dependent territories of Australia (Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and Cocos Island) and of the United States (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico (in Puerto Rico, English is co-official with Spanish), and the US Virgin Islands),[14] and the former British colony of Hong Kong. (See List of countries where English is an official language for more details.)

Although the United States federal government has no official languages, English has been given official status by 30 of the 50 state governments.[15] Although falling short of official status, English is also an important language in several former colonies and protectorates of the United Kingdom, such as Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cyprus, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates.

English as a global language[edit]

Because English is so widely spoken, it has often been referred to as a "world language", the lingua franca of the modern era,[16] and while it is not an official language in most countries, it is currently the language most often taught as a foreign language.[citation needed] It is, by international treaty, the official language for aeronautical[17] and maritime[18] communications. English is one of the official languages of the United Nations and many other international organizations, including the International Olympic Committee.

English is studied most often in the European Union, and the perception of the usefulness of foreign languages among Europeans is 67% in favor of English ahead of 17% for German and 16% for French (as of 2012). Among some of the non-English-speaking EU countries, the following percentages of the adult population claimed to be able to converse in English in 2012: 90% in the Netherlands, 89% in Malta, 86% in Sweden and Denmark, 73% in Cyprus and Austria, 70% in Finland, and over 50% in Greece, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Germany. In 2012, excluding native speakers, 38% of Europeans consider that they can speak English,[19]

Books, magazines, and newspapers written in English are available in many countries around the world, and English is the most commonly used language in the sciences[16] with Science Citation Index reporting as early as 1997 that 95% of its articles were written in English, even though only half of them came from authors in English-speaking countries.

English literature predominates considerably with 28% of all volumes published in the world [leclerc 2011][citation needed] and 30% of web content in 2011 (from 50% in 2000).[20]

This increasing use of the English language globally has had a large impact on many other languages, leading to language shift and even language death,[21] and to claims of linguistic imperialism.[22] English itself has become more open to language shift as multiple regional varieties feed back into the language as a whole.[22]


  1. ^ Data are from national censuses conducted in 2010 or 2011 in the reported countries.
  2. ^ "Summary by language size". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  3. ^ David Crystal calculates that non-native speakers as of 2003 outnumbered native speakers by a ratio of 3 to 1. Crystal, David (2003). English as a Global Language (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-521-53032-3. 
  4. ^ McCrum, Robert; MacNeil, Robert; Cran, William (2003). The Story of English (Third Revised ed.). London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-200231-5. 
  5. ^ Crystal, David (2003a). English as a Global Language (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-521-53032-3. Retrieved 4 February 2015. Lay summary (PDF)Library of Congress (sample) (4 February 2015). The statistics collected in chapter 2 suggest that about a quarter of the world's population is already fluent or competent in English, and this figure is steadily growing—in the early 2000s that means around 1.5 billion people. 
  6. ^ Crystal (2005), p. 109.
  7. ^ "Census of Population 2011: Preliminary Results" (PDF). 30 June 2011. p. 1. Retrieved 29 August 2010.
  8. ^ 2006 census. "Australian Bureau of Statistics". Censusdata.abs.gov.au. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  9. ^ "2006 Census Data – QuickStats About Culture and Identity – Tables". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  10. ^ American Community Survey: Language Use in the United States: 2011
  11. ^ 2011 census [1]
  12. ^ Crystal (2004) claims that, combining native and non-native speakers, India has more people who speak or understand English than any other country in the world. Crystal, David (2004-11-19) Subcontinent Raises Its Voice, Guardian Weekly.
  13. ^ Zhao, Yong and Campbell, Keith P. (1995). "English in China". World Englishes 14 (3): 377–390. doi:10.1111/j.1467-971X.1995.tb00080.x. Hong Kong contributes an additional 2.5 million speakers (1996 by-census) 
  14. ^ Nancy Morris (1995). Puerto Rico: Culture, Politics, and Identity. Praeger/Greenwood. p. 62. ISBN 0-275-95228-2. 
  15. ^ "U.S. English, Inc". Us-english.org. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  16. ^ a b David Graddol (1997). "The Future of English?" (PDF). The British Council. Retrieved 15 April 2007. 
  17. ^ "ICAO Promotes Aviation Safety by Endorsing English Language Testing". International Civil Aviation Organization. 13 October 2011. 
  18. ^ "IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases". International Maritime Organization. Archived from the original on 27 December 2003. 
  19. ^ "Europeans and languages" (PDF). pp. 21, 69. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  20. ^ "Net.lang: towards the multilingual cyberspace" (PDF). Net-lang.net. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 
  21. ^ David Crystal (2000) Language Death, Preface; viii, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  22. ^ a b Jambor, Paul Z. (April 2007). "English Language Imperialism: Points of View". Journal of English as an International Language 2: 103–123.