Approximately 359 million people speak English as their first language. 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.
Estimates that include second language speakers vary greatly, from 470 million to more than 1,000 million. David Crystal calculates that non-native speakers as of 2003 outnumbered native speakers by a ratio of 3 to 1. When combining native and non-native speakers, English is the most widely spoken language worldwide.
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.
Majority English-speaking countries
There are six countries with a majority of native English speakers are, in descending order, the United States (at least 231 million), the United Kingdom (60 million), Canada (19 million), Australia (at least 17 million), Ireland (4.2 million), and New Zealand (3.7 million). These six countries are also grouped under the term Anglosphere. In these countries, children of native speakers learn English from their parents, and local people who speak other languages or new immigrants learn English to communicate in their neighbourhoods and workplaces.
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 (4.8 million), 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
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 of English (see Indian English); 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.
English is one of the eleven 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), 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. 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
Because English is so widely spoken, it has often been referred to as a "world language", the lingua franca of the modern era, and while it is not an official language in most countries, it is currently the language most often taught as a foreign language. It is, by international treaty, the official language for aeronautical and maritime 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 percent in favor of English ahead of 17 percent for German and 16 percent 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 percent in the Netherlands, 89 percent in Malta, 86 percent in Sweden and Denmark, 73 percent in Cyprus and Austria, 70 percent in Finland, and over 50 percent in Greece, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Germany. In 2012, excluding native speakers, 38 percent of Europeans consider that they can speak English,
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 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 percent of all books published in the world [leclerc 2011] and 30 percent of web content in 2011 (from 50 percent in 2000).
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, and to claims of linguistic imperialism. English itself has become more open to language shift as multiple regional varieties feed back into the language as a whole.
- Data are from national censuses conducted in 2010 or 2011 in the reported countries.
- "Summary by language size". Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
- Crystal, David (2003). English as a Global Language (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-521-53032-3.
- McCrum, Robert; MacNeil, Robert; Cran, William (2003). The Story of English (Third Revised ed.). London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-200231-5.
- 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.
- Ryan 2013, Table 1.
- Office for National Statistics 2013, Key Points.
- National Records of Scotland 2013.
- Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency 2012, Table KS207NI: Main Language.
- Statistics Canada 2014.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013.
- Statistics New Zealand 2014.
- Bao 2006, p. 377.
- Statistics South Africa 2012, Table 2.5 Population by first language spoken and province (number).
- Crystal 2004b.
- Nancy Morris (1995). Puerto Rico: Culture, Politics, and Identity. Praeger/Greenwood. p. 62. ISBN 0-275-95228-2.
- "U.S. English, Inc". Us-english.org. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- David Graddol (1997). "The Future of English?" (PDF). The British Council. Retrieved 15 April 2007.
- Crystal, David (2003a). English as a Global Language (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-521-53032-3. Retrieved 4 February 2015. Lay summary (PDF) – Library of Congress (sample) (4 February 2015). Northrup, David (20 March 2013). How English Became the Global Language. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-137-30306-6. Retrieved 25 March 2015. Lay summary (25 March 2015).
- "ICAO Promotes Aviation Safety by Endorsing English Language Testing". International Civil Aviation Organization. 13 October 2011.
- "IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases". International Maritime Organization. Archived from the original on 27 December 2003.
- European Commission (June 2012). Special Eurobarometer 386: Europeans and Their Languages (PDF) (Report). Eurobarometer Special Surveys. Retrieved 12 February 2015. Lay summary (PDF) (27 March 2015).
- Northrup 2013.
- David Crystal (2000) Language Death, Preface; viii, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
- Jambor, Paul Z. (April 2007). "English Language Imperialism: Points of View". Journal of English as an International Language 2: 103–123.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (28 March 2013). "2011 Census QuickStats: Australia". Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Bao, Z. (2006). "Variation in Nonnative Varieties of English". In Brown, Keith. Encyclopedia of language & linguistics. Elsevier. pp. 377–380. ISBN 978-0-08-044299-0. doi:10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/04257-7. Retrieved 6 February 2015. Lay summary (6 February 2015). – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)
- Crystal, David (19 November 2004b). "Subcontinent Raises Its Voice". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- National Records of Scotland (26 September 2013). "Census 2011: Release 2A". Scotland's Census 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (11 December 2012). "Census 2011: Key Statistics for Northern Ireland December 2012" (PDF). Statistics Bulletin. Table KS207NI: Main Language. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
- Office for National Statistics (4 March 2013). "Language in England and Wales, 2011". 2011 Census Analysis. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
- Ryan, Camille (August 2013). "Language Use in the United States: 2011" (PDF). American Community Survey Reports. p. 1. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
- Statistics Canada (22 August 2014). "Population by mother tongue and age groups (total), 2011 counts, for Canada, provinces and territories". Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Statistics New Zealand (April 2014). "2013 QuickStats About Culture and Identity" (PDF). p. 23. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Statistics South Africa (2012). Census 2011: Census in Brief (PDF). Report No. 03-01-41. Table 2.5 Population by first language spoken and province (number). ISBN 978-0-621-41388-5. Retrieved 16 December 2014.