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

The English-speaking world comprises the 88 countries and territories in which English is an official, administrative, or cultural language. In the early 2000s, between one and two billion people spoke English,[1][2] making it the largest language by number of speakers, the third largest language by number of native speakers and the most widespread language geographically. The countries in which English is the native language of most people are sometimes termed the Anglosphere. Speakers of English are called Anglophones.

Early Medieval England was the birthplace of the English language; the modern form of the language has been spread around the world since the 17th century, first by the worldwide influence of England and later the United Kingdom, and then by that of the United States. Through all types of printed and electronic media of these countries, English has become the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions and professional fields, such as science, navigation and law.[3]

The United States and India have the most total English speakers, with 306 million and 265 million, respectively. These are followed by Pakistan (104 million), the United Kingdom (68 million), and Nigeria (60 million).[4] As of 2022, there were about 400 million native speakers of English.[5] Including people who speak English as a second language, estimates of the total number of Anglophones vary from 1.5 billion to 2 billion.[2] David Crystal calculated in 2003 that non-native speakers outnumbered native speakers by a ratio of three to one.[6]

Besides the major varieties of EnglishAmerican, British, Canadian, Australian, Irish, New Zealand English—and their sub-varieties, countries such as South Africa, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Singapore, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago also have millions of native speakers of dialect continua ranging from English-based creole languages to Standard English. Other countries and territories, such as Ghana, also use English as their primary official language even though it is not the native language of most of the people. English holds official status in numerous countries within the Commonwealth of Nations.[7]

Majority English-speaking countries

Main articles: List of countries by English-speaking population and Anglosphere

English-speaking peoples monument in London

English is the primary natively spoken language in several countries and territories. Five of the largest of these are sometimes described as the "core Anglosphere";[8][9][10] they are the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The term "Anglosphere" can sometimes be extended to include other countries and territories where English or an English Creole language is also the primary native language and English is the primary language of government and education, such as Ireland, Gibraltar, and the Commonwealth Caribbean.[11]

While English is also spoken by a majority of people as a second language in a handful of countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, these countries are not considered part of the English-speaking world as the language is still viewed primarily as a foreign tongue and does not serve an important cultural role in society.[12]

Countries where English is an official language

Main article: List of countries and territories where English is an official language

English is an official language (de facto or de jure) of the following countries and territories.[13]

Although not official, English is also an important language in some former colonies and protectorates of the British Empire where it is used as an administrative language, such as Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates.

English as a global language

See also: English in computing, International English, World Englishes, World language, English as a second or foreign language, Englishisation, and Euro English

Because English is so widely spoken, it has often been called a "world language", the lingua franca of the modern era,[14] and while it is not an official language in most countries, it is currently the language most often taught as a foreign language.[6][15] It is, by international treaty, the official language for aeronautical[16] and maritime[17] communications. English is one of the official languages of the United Nations and many other international organizations, including the International Olympic Committee. It is also one of two co-official languages for astronauts (besides the Russian language) serving on board the International Space Station.[citation needed]

The English language has a particular significance in the Commonwealth of Nations, which developed from the British Empire.[18] English is the medium of inter-Commonwealth relations.[19] The English language as used in the Commonwealth has sometimes been referred to as Commonwealth English, most often interchangeably with British English.[20]

English is studied most often in the European Union, and the perception of the usefulness of foreign languages among Europeans is 67% in favour of English, ahead of 17% for German and 16% for French (as of 2012). In some of the non–English-speaking EU countries, the following percentages of adults 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, Croatia, and Austria; 70% in Finland; and over 50% in Greece, Belgium, Luxembourg, Slovenia, and Germany. In 2012, excluding native speakers, 38% of Europeans consider that they can speak English.[21]

Books, magazines, and newspapers written in English are available in many countries around the world; English is the most commonly used language in the sciences,[14] 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.

In publishing, English literature predominates considerably, with 28% of all books published in the world [Leclerc 2011][full citation needed] and 30% of web content in 2011 (down from 50% in 2000).[15]

The increasing use of the English language globally has had a large impact on many other languages, leading to language shift and language death,[22] and to claims of linguistic imperialism.[citation needed] English itself has become more open to language shift as multiple regional varieties feed back into the language as a whole.[23]


  1. ^ Crystal, David (2004). The language revolution. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-745-63313-8.
  2. ^ a b Crystal, David (2008). "Two thousand million?". English Today. 24: 3–6. doi:10.1017/S0266078408000023. S2CID 145597019.
  3. ^ The Routes of English.
  4. ^ English Archived 2023-03-09 at the Wayback Machine, Ethnologue, Dallas, Texas: SIL International., 2022.
  5. ^ "What are the top 200 most spoken languages?". Ethnologue. 2022. Archived from the original on 2023-06-18. Retrieved 2023-05-13.
  6. ^ a b Crystal, David (2003). English as a Global Language (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-521-53032-3. Archived from the original on 2023-04-15. Retrieved 2023-03-19.
  7. ^ Mufwene, Salikoko S. (2016-03-14). "English: the Empire is dead. Long live the Empire". The Conversation. Retrieved 2024-06-12.
  8. ^ Mycock, Andrew; Wellings, Ben (July 2019). "The UK after Brexit: Can and Will the Anglosphere Replace the EU?" (PDF). Cicero Foundation. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 June 2020. ...the core Anglosphere states – the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand...
  9. ^ Vucetic, Srdjan (2011). The Anglosphere: A Genealogy of a Racialized Identity in International Relations. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804772242.
  10. ^ Gregg, Samuel (17 February 2020). "Getting Real About the Anglosphere". Law & Liberty. Archived from the original on Oct 17, 2022. ...from what might be called the "core" Anglosphere nations: Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States;
  11. ^ Lloyd, John (2000). "The Anglosphere Project". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 13 December 2015. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  12. ^ "The Anglosphere and its Others: The 'English-speaking Peoples' in a Changing World Order – British Academy". British Academy. Archived from the original on 2017-04-22. Retrieved 2023-05-20.
  13. ^ "Field Listing - Languages". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2023-07-16.
  14. ^ a b David Graddol (1997). "The Future of English?" (PDF). The British Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 February 2007. Retrieved 15 April 2007.
  15. ^ a b Northrup 2013.
  16. ^ "ICAO Promotes Aviation Safety by Endorsing English Language Testing". International Civil Aviation Organization. 13 October 2011. Archived from the original on 29 June 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  17. ^ "IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases". International Maritime Organization. Archived from the original on 27 December 2003.
  18. ^ "About Us". thecommonwealth.org. The Commonwealth. Archived from the original on 10 September 2022. Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  19. ^ "Joining the Commonwealth". Commonwealth. Archived from the original on 7 March 2022. Retrieved 2022-03-27.
  20. ^ "Commonwealth English". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 7 May 2024.
  21. ^ European Commission (June 2012). Special Eurobarometer 386: Europeans and Their Languages (PDF) (Report). Eurobarometer Special Surveys. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-02-07. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  22. ^ David Crystal (2000) Language Death, Preface; viii, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  23. ^ Jambor, Paul Z. (April 2007). "English Language Imperialism: Points of View". Journal of English as an International Language. 2: 103–123. Archived from the original on 2013-09-25. Retrieved 2014-06-16.


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English and Diplomacy