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List of countries and territories where English is an official language

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English language distribution
  Majority native language
  Official or administrative language, but not majority language

The following is a list of countries and territories where English is an official language used in citizen interactions with government officials. As of 2020, there were 56 sovereign states and 28 non-sovereign entities where English was an official language.[citation needed] Many administrative divisions have declared English an official language at the local or regional level.

Most states where English is an official language are former territories of the British Empire. Exceptions include Rwanda and Burundi[also should be on map], which were formerly German and then Belgian colonies; Cameroon, where only part of national territory was under British mandate; and Liberia, the Philippines, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau, which were American territories. English is the sole official language of the Commonwealth of Nations and of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). English is one of the official languages of the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Caribbean Community, the Union of South American Nations, and many other international organisations. Although English is not de jure an official language at the national level in the United States, most states and territories within the United States have English as an official language, and only Puerto Rico uses a language other than English as a primary working language.

The United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, where the overwhelming majority of native English speakers reside, do not have English as an official language de jure, but English is considered their de facto official language because it dominates in these countries.[citation needed]

Sovereign states[edit]

English is a de jure official language[edit]

Country code Geographic region Population[a] Primary language?
Antigua and Barbuda[citation needed] ATG Caribbean 85,000 Yes (English-based creole language)
The Bahamas[1] BHS Caribbean 331,000 Yes (English-based creole language)
Barbados[2] BRB Caribbean 294,000 Yes (English-based creole language)
Belize[3] BLZ Central America 288,000 Yes (English-based creole language)
Botswana[3] BWA Africa 1,882,000 Yes
Burundi[4] BDI Africa 10,114,505 No
Cameroon[1] CMR Africa 22,534,532 No (co-official with French, but only spoken primarily in the Northwest and Southwest of the country)
Canada CAN North America 38,048,738 Yes (Co-official with French, and a predominant language nationwide except for Quebec and Nunavut)
Dominica[1] DMA Caribbean 73,000 Yes (French-based creole language)
Eswatini[1] SWZ Africa 1,141,000 No
Fiji[1] FJI Oceania 828,000 Yes (used as lingua franca, mostly and widely spoken, educational, commerce, and government)
The Gambia[1] GMB Africa 1,709,000 Yes
Ghana[1] GHA Africa 27,000,000 Yes (used as lingua franca)
Grenada[1] GRD Caribbean 111,000 Yes (English-based creole language)
Guyana[5] GUY South America 738,000 Yes (English-based creole language)
India[3][6] IND Asia 1,428,627,663 No (but official and educational)
Ireland[7][8] IRL Europe 4,900,000 Yes (Irish is co-official)
Jamaica[9] JAM Caribbean 2,714,000 Yes (English-based creole language)
Kenya[1] KEN Africa 45,010,056 Yes (used in business and education)
Kiribati[1] KIR Oceania 95,000 No
Lesotho[1] LSO Africa 2,008,000 No
Liberia[1] LBR Africa 3,750,000 Yes
Malawi[10] MWI Africa 16,407,000 Yes (used as lingua franca)
Malta[1] MLT Europe 537,000 No (but official and in business / education)
Marshall Islands[1] MHL Oceania 59,000 No
Micronesia[1] FSM Oceania 110,000 Yes
Namibia[1] NAM Africa 2,074,000 No (used as lingua franca)
Nauru[11] NRU Oceania 10,000 No (but widely spoken)
Nigeria[1][12] NGA Africa 182,202,000 Yes (used as official language)
Pakistan[1] PAK Asia 212,742,631 No (but official and educational)
Palau[3] PLW Oceania 20,000 No
Papua New Guinea[13][14] PNG Oceania 7,059,653 Yes (official and educational)
Philippines PHL Asia 110,864,327 Yes (but official, educational, used in government, and used as lingua franca)
Rwanda[15] RWA Africa 13,240,439 No
Saint Kitts and Nevis[16] KNA Caribbean 50,000 Yes (English-based creole language)
Saint Lucia[1] LCA Caribbean 165,000 Yes (French-based creole language)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines[17] VCT Caribbean 120,000 Yes (English-based creole language)
Samoa[18] WSM Oceania 188,000 No
Seychelles[1] SYC Africa / Indian Ocean 87,000 No
Sierra Leone[1] SLE Africa 6,190,280 Yes (English-based creole language)
Singapore SGP Asia 5,469,700 Yes (official language, lingua franca, mostly and widely spoken, and educational)
Solomon Islands[1] SLB Oceania 507,000 Yes
South Africa[19] ZAF Africa 54,956,900 Yes (official, educational and lingua franca in formal economy)
South Sudan[20] SSD Africa 12,340,000 Yes
Sudan[1] SDN Africa 40,235,000 No
Tanzania[1] TZA Africa 51,820,000 Yes (used in business and education)
Tonga[21] TON Oceania 100,000 No
Trinidad and Tobago[1] TTO Caribbean 1,333,000 Yes (English-based creole language)
Tuvalu[3] TUV Oceania 11,000 No
Uganda[22] UGA Africa 47,053,690 Yes
Vanuatu[23] VUT Oceania 226,000 No
Zambia[1] ZMB Africa 16,212,000 Yes (used as lingua franca)
Zimbabwe[1] ZWE Africa 15,178,957 Yes

English is a predominant language[edit]

In these countries, English is conventionally spoken by both the government and main population, despite it having no de jure official status at national level.

Country ISO code Geographic region Population Primary language?
Australia AUS Oceania 26,461,166 Yes
New Zealand[24] NZL Oceania 5,109,702 Yes
United Kingdom GBR Europe 68,138,484 Yes
United States USA North America 339,665,118 Yes

English is a de facto working language[edit]

In these countries, English is spoken in government or education, but it is not recognised as de jure official, nor a primary language spoken by the main population

Country ISO code Geographic region Population[a]
Bangladesh[25] BAN Asia 172,954,319
Bhutan[26] BTN Asia 727,145
Brunei[27] BRN Asia 440,715
Israel[28][29][30] ISR Asia / Middle East 8,051,200
Malaysia[31] MYS Asia 32,730,000
Mauritius[32] MUS Africa / Indian Ocean 1,262,000
Qatar[33] QAT Asia / Middle East 2,675,522
Sri Lanka[34][35] LKA Asia 20,277,597
Timor-Leste[36] TLS Asia 1,340,513
United Arab Emirates[37] ARE Asia / Middle East 9,809,000

Non-sovereign entities[edit]

English is a de jure official language[edit]

Entity Sovereign state Region Population[a] Primary language?
Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus[citation needed] United Kingdom Europe 15,700 No
American Samoa[b] United States Oceania 67,700 No (official language)
Anguilla[1] United Kingdom Caribbean 18,090 No (English-based creole language)
Bermuda[c][1] United Kingdom North America 65,000 Yes
British Virgin Islands[1] United Kingdom Caribbean 23,000 No (English-based creole language)
Cayman Islands[3] United Kingdom Caribbean 47,000 Yes (English-based creole language)
Cook Islands[1][d] New Zealand Oceania 20,000 No
Curaçao[38] Netherlands Caribbean 150,563 No
Falkland Islands and South Georgia[citation needed] United Kingdom South America 3,000 Yes
Gibraltar[1] United Kingdom Europe 33,000 No (Both English and Llanito are spoken on a daily basis as the primary languages)
Guam[e] United States Oceania 173,000 Yes (co-official with Chamorro)
Hong Kong[f][1] China Asia 7,097,600 No (but de jure and de facto co-official with Chinese[39])
Isle of Man[g] United Kingdom Europe 80,058 Yes
Jersey[h][1] United Kingdom Europe 89,300 Yes
Niue[1][d] New Zealand Oceania 1,600 No
Norfolk Island[1] Australia Oceania 1,828 No (English-based creole language)
Northern Mariana Islands[citation needed][i] United States Oceania 53,883 Yes (co-official with Chamorro)
Pitcairn Islands[j][1] United Kingdom Oceania 50 Yes
Puerto Rico[k] United States Caribbean 3,991,000 No (co-official with Spanish as the primary language)
Rotuma[citation needed] Fiji Oceania 1,594 No
Sint Maarten[40] Netherlands Caribbean 40,900 No (English-based creole language)
Turks and Caicos Islands[1] United Kingdom Caribbean 26,000 No (English-based creole language)
U.S. Virgin Islands[l] United States Caribbean 111,000 No (English-based creole language)

English is a de facto official language[edit]

Entity Sovereign state Region Population[a]
Barbuda[citation needed] Antigua and Barbuda Caribbean 1,300
British Indian Ocean Territory[citation needed] United Kingdom Indian Ocean 3,000
Guernsey[m] United Kingdom Europe 61,811
Montserrat[1] United Kingdom Caribbean 5,900
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha[3] United Kingdom South Atlantic 5,660

English is a de facto official, but not a primary language[edit]

Entity Sovereign state Region Population[a]
Christmas Island[n][1] Australia Southeast Asia 1,508
Cocos (Keeling) Islands[o][1] Australia Southeast Asia 596
Tokelau[41] New Zealand Oceania 1,400

Country subdivisions[edit]

In these country subdivisions, English has de jure official status, but English is not official in their respective countries at the national level.

Country subdivisions where English is a de jure official language
Subdivision Country Region Population
San Andrés y Providencia[42] Colombia South America 75,167
Sarawak[43][44][45] Malaysia Asia 2,471,140
Saba[46] Netherlands Caribbean 1,991
Sint Eustatius[46] 3,897
Scotland[47] United Kingdom Europe 5,424,800
Wales[48] 3,125,000
Alabama[49] United States North America 4,833,722
Alaska[50] 735,132
Arizona[51] 6,626,624
Arkansas[49] 2,959,373
California[49] 38,332,521
Colorado[49] 5,268,367
Florida[49] 21,299,325
Georgia[49] 10,519,475
Hawaii[49] Oceania 1,404,054
Idaho[49] North America 1,612,136
Illinois[49] 12,882,135
Indiana[49] 6,570,902
Iowa[49] 3,090,416
Kansas[49] 2,893,957
Kentucky[49] 4,395,295
Louisiana[49] 4,657,757
Massachusetts[52] 6,794,422
Mississippi[49] 2,991,207
Missouri[49] 6,083,672
Montana[49] 1,015,165
Nebraska[49] 1,868,516
New Hampshire[49] 1,323,459
North Carolina[49] 9,848,060
North Dakota[49] 723,393
Oklahoma[53] 3,850,568
South Carolina[49] 4,774,839
South Dakota[49] 844,877
Tennessee[49] 6,495,978
Utah[49] 2,900,872
Virginia[49] 8,260,405
West Virginia[54] 1,844,128
Wyoming[49] 582,658

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e The population figures are based on the sources in List of countries by population, with information as of 23 January 2009 (UN estimates, et al.), and refer to the population of the country and not necessarily to the number of inhabitants that speak English in the country in question.
  2. ^ American Samoa is an unincorporated U.S. territory.
  3. ^ Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory.
  4. ^ a b The Cook Islands and Niue are associated states of New Zealand that lack general recognition.
  5. ^ Guam is an organized unincorporated territory of the United States
  6. ^ Hong Kong is a former British Crown colony (1843–1981) and British Dependent Territory (1981–1997); it is currently a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (1997–present).
  7. ^ The Isle of Man is a British Crown dependency.
  8. ^ Jersey is a British Crown dependency.
  9. ^ The Northern Mariana Islands is a commonwealth in political union with the United States.
  10. ^ Pitcairn Islands is a British Overseas Territory.
  11. ^ Puerto Rico is, historically and culturally, connected to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean; Spanish is also an official language on the island. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated United States territory referred to as a "Commonwealth".
  12. ^ The US Virgin Islands is an insular area of the United States.
  13. ^ Guernsey is a British Crown dependency.
  14. ^ Christmas Island is an external territory of Australia.
  15. ^ Cocos (Keeling) Islands is an external territory of Australia.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao Official language; "Field Listing - Languages". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Archived from the original on June 13, 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-11.
  2. ^ "Society". Government Information Service (Barbados). Archived from the original on 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g English usage; "Field Listing - Languages". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Archived from the original on June 13, 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-11.
  4. ^ "English is now official language of Burundi". IWACU English News. 17 July 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  5. ^ "National Profile". Government Information Agency (Guyana). Archived from the original on 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  6. ^ N. Krishnaswamy; Lalitha Krishnaswamy (6 January 2006). "3.14 English Becomes a Second Language". The story of English in India. Foundation Books. ISBN 978-81-7596-312-2.
  7. ^ The Constitution
  8. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-06. Retrieved 2013-01-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ The Constitution of Jamaica (section 20(6e) ? implicit)
  10. ^ Malawi Investment Promotion Agency (August 2005). "Opportunities for investment and Trade in Malawi ? the Warm Heart of Africa". Government of Malawi. Archived from the original on 2009-02-25. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  11. ^ "Nauru". New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2008-12-03. Retrieved 2009-01-18. English and Nauruan are official.
  12. ^ "Country profile: Nigeria". BBC News. April 30, 2008. Retrieved November 10, 2008.
  13. ^ "General Information on Papua New Guinea". Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority. Archived from the original on January 31, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  14. ^ "Country profile: Papua New Guinea". BBC News. 2008-11-28. Archived from the original on December 15, 2002.
  15. ^ "Rwanda's Constitution of 2003 with Amendments through 2015" (PDF). constituteproject.org. Comparative Constitutions Project. pp. 5–6. Retrieved 16 October 2022. Article 8. National language and official languages The National language is Ikinyarwanda. The official languages are Ikinyarwanda, English and French
  16. ^ "Primary Schools". Government of St Christopher (St Kitts) and Nevis. Archived from the original on 2009-01-03. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  17. ^ "St. Vincent and the Grenadines Profile". Agency for Public Information (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines). Archived from the original on 2010-11-12. Retrieved 2011-06-18.
  18. ^ "Legislations: List of Acts and Ordinances". The Parliament of Samoa. Archived from the original on October 1, 2006. Retrieved 2009-01-18. Languages for official legislation are Samoan and English.
  19. ^ "Constitution of the Republic of South Africa". Constitutional Court of South Africa. Archived from the original on 2009-01-16. Retrieved 2009-01-11.
  20. ^ "The Constitution of Southern Sudan". Southern Sudan Civil Society Initiative. Retrieved 2011-07-09.
  21. ^ Kingdom of Tonga (March 2008). "The United Nations / Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Council". Archived from the original on January 25, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-18. English and Tongan are listed as official.
  22. ^ "Constitution of Uganda" (PDF). ilo.org. International Labour Organization. p. 6. Retrieved 16 October 2022. Article 6. Official Language (1) The official language of Uganda is English
  23. ^ "Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu". Government of the Republic of Vanuatu. 1980. Archived from the original on 2009-01-24. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  24. ^ New Zealand Government (21 December 2007). International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Fifth Periodic Report of the Government of New Zealand (PDF) (Report). p. 89. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 January 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015. In addition to the Māori language, New Zealand Sign Language is also an official language of New Zealand. The New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006 permits the use of NZSL in legal proceedings, facilitates competency standards for its interpretation and guides government departments in its promotion and use. English, the medium for teaching and learning in most schools, is a de facto official language by virtue of its widespread use. For these reasons, these three languages have special mention in the New Zealand Curriculum.
  25. ^ Historical Evolution of English in Bangladesh (PDF). Mohammad Nurul Islam. 1 March 2019. pp. 9–. Retrieved 10 November 2023.
  26. ^ English has been the primary language of instruction for five decades in Bhutan, at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Dendup, Tashi and Angkana Onthanee. 2020. "Effectiveness of Cooperative Learning on English Communicative Ability of 4th Grade Students in Bhutan." International Journal of Instruction, v13 n1(Jan) p255-266. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1239314.pdf
  27. ^ Mouton De Gruyter (31 May 2011). Wei, Li: Applied Linguistics Review. 2011 2. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 100–. ISBN 978-3-11-023933-1. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  28. ^ Spolsky, Bernard (1999). Round Table on Language and Linguistics. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. pp. 169–70. ISBN 0-87840-132-6. In 1948, the newly independent state of Israel took over the old British regulations that had set English, Arabic, and Hebrew as official languages for Mandatory Palestine but, as mentioned, dropped English from the list. In spite of this, official language use has maintained a de facto role for English, after Hebrew but before Arabic.
  29. ^ Bat-Zeev Shyldkrot, Hava (2004). "Part I: Language and Discourse". In Diskin Ravid, Dorit; Bat-Zeev Shyldkrot, Hava (eds.). Perspectives on Language and Development: Essays in Honor of Ruth A. Berman. Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 90. ISBN 1-4020-7911-7. English is not considered official but it plays a dominant role in the educational and public life of Israeli society. [...] It is the language most widely used in commerce, business, formal papers, academia, and public interactions, public signs, road directions, names of buildings, etc. English behaves 'as if' it were the second and official language in Israel.
  30. ^ Shohamy, Elana (2006). Language Policy: Hidden Agendas and New Approaches. Routledge. pp. 72?73. ISBN 0-415-32864-0. In terms of English, there is no connection between the declared policies and statements and de facto practices. While English is not declared anywhere as an official language, the reality is that it has a very high and unique status in Israel. It is the main language of the academy, commerce, business, and the public space.
  31. ^ National Language Act 1963/67 (PDF) (Act 32). Dewan Rakyat. 1967.
  32. ^ "The Constitution of the Republic of Mauritius".
  33. ^ Baker, Colin; Jones, Sylvia Prys (1998). Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. Multilingual Matters. p. 429. ISBN 978-1853593628.
  34. ^ English is a "De facto national working language, used in government." Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2013. "Sri Lanka." Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Seventeenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online edition: https://www.ethnologue.com/country/LK Accessed 30 March 2014.
  35. ^ Under the constitution of 1978, Sinhala and Tamil are the official languages of Sri Lanka, but English is "the link language." Any person is entitled "to receive communications from, and to communicate and transact business with, any official in his official capacity" in English, to receive an English translation of "any official register, record, publication or other document," and "to communicate and transact business in English." English translations must be made for "all laws and subordinate legislation," "all Orders, Proclamations, rules, by-laws, regulations and notifications." "THE CONSTITUTION OF THE DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA: Chapter IV". 1978. Archived from the original on 2003-02-03. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  36. ^ "Constitution of The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste" (PDF). The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. Retrieved 2023-06-20. Portuguese and Tetum are listed as official, English and Indonesia are listed as official working languages.
  37. ^ Hanani, Fatiha (December 2009). Impact of English on Young Arabs' Use of Arabic in the UAE (Master of Arts thesis). American University of Sharjah.
  38. ^ "LANDSVERORDENING van de 28ste maart 2007 houdende vaststelling van de officiele talen (Landsverordening officiele talen)" (in Dutch). Government of the Netherlands. Retrieved 21 August 2013.[permanent dead link]
  39. ^ Official Languages Ordinance (Cap. 5) § 3(1)
  40. ^ According to Art. 1 para 2. Constitution of Sint Maarten Archived 2014-03-10 at the Wayback Machine: "The official languages are Dutch and English"
  41. ^ "Associated Countries and External Territories: Tokelau". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 24 March 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  42. ^ "Consulta de la Norma". alcaldiabogota.gov.co.
  43. ^ "Sarawak makes English official language along with BM". themalaymailonline.com. 2 September 2022.
  44. ^ "Sarawak to recognise English as official language besides Bahasa Malaysia". BorneoPost Online - Borneo, Malaysia, Sarawak Daily News. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05.
  45. ^ "Sarawak adopts English as official language". thesundaily.my.
  46. ^ a b English can be used in relations with the government
    "Invoeringswet openbare lichamen Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba" (in Dutch). wetten.nl. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  47. ^ Scottish Government. "Scottish Facts and Information". Scotland.org. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  48. ^ National Assembly for Wales (2012). "National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Act 2012". Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  49. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Crawford, James (June 24, 2008). "Language Legislation in the U.S.A." languagepolicy.net. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  50. ^ "Alaska Supreme Court Upholds State's Official English Law". Business Wire. November 5, 2007. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
  51. ^ "Arizona makes English official". Washington Times. November 8, 2006. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
  52. ^ "Official English Map". Archived from the original on 2016-03-20. Retrieved 2016-03-18.
  53. ^ Slipke, Darla (November 3, 2010). "Oklahoma elections: Republican-backed measures win approval". NewsOK. The Oklahoman. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
  54. ^ "West Virginia is the 32nd State to pass Official English". Pro English. March 5, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2017.