How Many People Speak English, And Where Is It Spoken?


A Brief History of English

The English language dates back to the fifth century, when Germanic tribes invaded Britain and their languages combined to form Old English. The earliest form of English looks very different from our modern form, but the two share a number of words and roots of words. In 1066, the Normans conquered England and brought with them a form of French. Many French words, along with some Latin, were mixed in with Old English, and Middle English was born. With the advent of printing in the 16th century, English became standardized. The Industrial Revolution created a need for more words, and British colonization led to the adoption of many foreign words. These factors converged to create Modern English, as we know it today.

Which Countries Speak English?

According to the British government, the countries with a majority of native English speakers are as follows: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, and United States of America.

The list of countries where English is an official language is actually much longer: Botswana, Cameroon, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Ghana, India, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

How Many People In The World Speak English?

Out of the world’s approximately 7.5 billion inhabitants, 1.5 billion speak English — that’s 20% of the Earth’s population. However, most of those people aren’t native English speakers. About 360 million people speak English as their first language. In addition to being widely spoken, English is by far the most commonly studied foreign language in the world, followed by French at a distant second.

How Many People Speak English In The Americas?

Estimates vary of how many North, Central and South Americans speak English as their native language, but it is likely somewhere around 250 million. The majority of those native English speakers live in the U.S. — about 231 million of them. Another 19 million native English speakers reside in Canada. Although a number of countries in the Caribbean have English as an official language, it’s primarily a remnant of colonialism and the majority of the population does not speak standard English. About 800,000 people in South America speak English natively.

How Many People Speak English In Europe?

According to a 2006 survey, 13% of European Union citizens speak English natively. Out of about 450 million people in the EU, that’s only 58 million native English speakers. Another 38% of EU citizens said they know enough English to have a conversation. The top 3 English-speaking countries in Europe are the United Kingdom and Ireland, where over 90% of the population speaks English, and Malta, where 62% of people speak English.

How Many People Speak English In Africa?

As in the Caribbean, a number of African countries have English as an official language because of colonialism. However, in all of Africa — a population of about 1.2 billion — only 6.5 million people speak English as their native language. In total, around 700 million Africans speak English, including those who speak it as a foreign language. Fun fact: a report by the World Linguistic Society found that people from Uganda speak better English than the residents of any other country in Africa.

How Many People Speak English In Asia, Australia And New Zealand?

Asia has relatively few native English speakers, but a large number of people speak English as a second or foreign language. It’s difficult to pinpoint a number or even a percentage for Asia, as a whole, because it’s such an enormous and diverse continent. We can say, however, that India has the most English speakers (125 million), followed by Pakistan (94 million) and the Philippines (90 million).

Unsurprisingly, the majority of Australians are native English speakers — approximately 70% of the population. In New Zealand, there are approximately 3.8 million native English speakers, but most New Zealanders speak a variant of English (known as New Zealand English).

English is an extremely useful language to know, but it’s also important to expand your horizons by learning other languages. Not sure where to start? Check out our list of easiest languages for English speakers to learn here. Or if you want more of a challenge, take a look at the hardest languages to learn here.


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