English is the world’s global language and plays a pivotal role in international communication, commerce, diplomacy, and academia. It is spoken in over 88 countries and territories around the world and it’s believed that up to 2 billion people speak English worldwide. That’s a lot of people! But which countries speak English? Read on to find out.
What do we mean by English speaking countries?
The term “English-speaking countries” refers to those nations where English is the primary language spoken by the majority of the population, or where it is recognized as an official language.
Some of the key characteristics of English-speaking countries are:
- English as the Official Language: In many English-speaking countries, English is designated as the official language, either through legislation, constitution, or longstanding practice. It means that English is the language used in official government proceedings and documents.
- Majority of the Population Speaks English: In English-speaking countries, a significant majority of the population can speak, understand, and use English as their primary language for day-to-day communication.
- English in Education: English is typically the language of instruction in schools and universities. Subjects are taught in English, and students are expected to have proficiency in the language.
- English in Media and Entertainment: English is the predominant language used in newspapers, magazines, television, radio, movies, and other forms of media and entertainment.
- English in Business and Commerce: English is the language of international business, trade, and diplomacy. In these countries, English is commonly used in commercial transactions and negotiations.
What are the main English speaking countries?
The main English-speaking countries are those where English is the primary language spoken by the majority of the population. These can also be referred to as native English speaking countries, and it is thought that over 400 million people count English as their native language.
These native speaking countries have either adopted English as their official language or have a significant number of English speakers.
Sometimes referred to as the “core Anglosphere” the five largest of these countries are:
United Kingdom: The birthplace of the English language, the United Kingdom (comprising England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland).
United States: With the largest population of native English speakers in the world, at about 230 million people, English is the de facto national language of the United States.
Canada: English is one of the two official languages in Canada, alongside French. It is widely spoken throughout most provinces and territories.
Australia: As a former British colony, Australia adopted English as its official language, and it is the most widely spoken language across the country.
New Zealand: English is the official language of New Zealand, alongside Te Reo Māori, the language of the indigenous Māori people.
The following countries also count English as one of their main languages:
Ireland: English is the predominant language spoken in Ireland, alongside Irish (Gaeilge), which holds official status.
Gibraltar: Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain. As a British territory, English is the official language and is widely used in government, education, commerce, and daily communication.
South Africa: English is one of the 11 official languages in South Africa, making it an important language for communication in this diverse nation. It is thought that around 13 million people speak English there.
Notable mentions also go to India, Singapore, the Philippines, and countries in the Commonwealth Caribbean, where English is widely spoken by a large percentage of the population.
So, what other countries speak English? Let’s take a look.
English speaking countries list
English is spoken and understood in many countries around the world due to its status as a global language. Some countries may count English as a primary language and some as a significant minority language. There are also various regions and communities where English is spoken as a second language or lingua franca alongside other native languages.
Here is a list of countries, by continent, that speak English as either an official or predominant language:
|Antigua and Barbuda
|Saint Kitts and Nevis
|Trinidad and Tobago
|The United States
|The Virgin Islands
|Isle of Man
|United Arab Emirates
|Northern Mariana Islands
|Papua New Guinea
*Note: Not everyone in these countries will speak English, this just serves to highlight where English is widely spoken.
How English spread around the world
The spread of English around the world can be traced back to the era of British colonialism, which began in the 16th century. As the British Empire expanded its territories, English was imposed as the official language in various colonies across North America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.
The establishment of British trade and commerce further accelerated the growth of the language, as English became a common means of communication between merchants and traders from different regions. With the migration of British settlers to these colonies, English took root and became the dominant language, firmly embedding itself into the social fabric of these societies.
Over time, the cultural influence of British literature, art, and media played a crucial role in popularizing English, making it not just a means of communication but also a symbol of prestige and status.
In the modern era of globalization, English’s dominance has only expanded. As technology advanced, English became the language of science, business, and the internet, solidifying its position as the lingua franca of the digital age. The rise of Hollywood and the global popularity of English language movies, music, and entertainment further enhanced its appeal and cultural influence.
International organizations, such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, also adopted English as one of their official languages. This further increased its importance in diplomacy and international relations.
With a vast network of English-speaking countries and a multitude of non-native speakers around the world, English has evolved into a truly global language, facilitating cross-cultural communication, and fostering a sense of interconnectedness in an increasingly globalized world.