English is the most-spoken language in the world, and it can be found spread far and wide. While there’s no official lingua franca for the planet, English is often used to communicate across nations. This is because of a number of historical factors, most notably the patterns of colonialism by English speakers. Exactly how many people speak English, though, and where are all those speakers? We look at the world of English and dive into the demographic data that’s available.
A Brief History of English
English is a member of the Germanic language family. That means it’s descended from Proto-Germanic, along with German, Dutch and Swedish, along with 43 other living Germanic languages. If you go back even further up the language family tree, English is an Indo-European language, which is one of the largest language families in the world and comprises most of the languages spoken that originated in Europe.
Historical linguists date the English language back to the fifth century, when Germanic tribes (speaking Proto-Germanic) invaded Britain. The languages of these groups influenced each other, forming 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 — a group from the area now known as France — conquered England and brought with them a form of French. Many French words, along with some Latin, were mixed in with Old English, and these eventually changed the language so much that Middle English was born.
Two factors led to the evolution toward Modern English. First was the advent of printing in the 16th century, which allowed mass-produced language for the first time. The spelling of words became standardized by the next century, and words could travel further than ever before. Second, waves of colonialism and imperialism spread the English language further afield. The United Kingdom imposed English on their territories around the world, and when the period of British colonialism was coming to a close it was only replaced with American imperialism, which is what forcefully made the English language as widespread as it is 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, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The list of countries where English is legally an official language is actually much longer: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, the Cook Islands, Dominica, Eswatini, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, The Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Nigeria, Niue, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, the Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
How Many People In The World Speak English?
Out of the world’s approximately 7.8 billion inhabitants, 1.35 billion speak English. The majority aren’t native English speakers, however. About 360 million people speak English as their first language. The most common first language is Chinese, followed distantly by Spanish and then, in third, comes English. 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?
English is spread out throughout the Americas, making it hard to tabulate exactly, but it is likely somewhere around 350 million. The majority of those native English speakers live in the United States — about 297.4 million of them. Another 30 million native English speakers reside in Canada. Although a number of countries in the Caribbean have English listed as an official language, it’s largely a remnant of colonialism and the majority of the population does not speak standard English.
In South America and Central America, about 14 million people speak English. The vast majority of these speakers live in Argentina (5.9 million), Colombia (2 million), Chile (1.97 million) and Puerto Rico (1.6 million). There are pockets of English speakers spread throughout, however.
How Many People Speak English In Europe?
Europe is home to roughly 212 million English speakers, and nearly every country in the continent has a sizable population. As mentioned, English is often used as a lingua franca between people who don’t necessarily speak it as a first language, and nowhere is that truer than in Europe.
In the United Kingdom, where English started all those centuries ago, there are about 60 million English speakers. This breaks down to 49.8 million speakers in England and Wales, 5.1 million in Scotland and 1.7 million in Northern Ireland.
After the United Kingdom, Germany has the most English speakers with 45.8 million. This is followed by France (25.4 million) and Italy (20.7 million). The majority of these speakers aren’t native speakers, however. Germany, for example, only has about 240,000 native English speakers.
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. In all of Africa — a population of about 1.2 billion — only 6.5 million people speak English as their native language. But following the pattern of a number of other continents, a number of Africans have learned English as a second language. Around 237 million people in Africa speak English in total (including native and non-native speakers).
The greatest number of English speakers are in Nigeria, where there are about 111 million people who speak at least some of the language. Nigeria is followed by Uganda (29 million), South Africa (16 million) and Cameroon (9.8 million).
How Many People Speak English In Asia?
Asia has relatively few native English speakers, but a large number of people speak English as a second or foreign language. While it’s difficult to say exactly how many people speak English across the vast continent of Asia, Ethnologue estimates it to be around 460 million.
India — colonized by the United Kingdom until the mid-20th century — has by far the most speakers, with around 265 million speakers of English. And that’s followed by the Philippines (50 million), Bangladesh (29 million) and Pakistan (25 million).
How Many People Speak English In Oceania?
Across Oceania, there are over 30 million English speakers. The majority of Australians are native speakers, with about 22.2 million in total. In New Zealand, there are approximately 4 million English speakers (most New Zealanders speak a dialect of English known as New Zealand English). Papua New Guinea adds another 3.2 million English speakers, and Fiji has 200,000.
Why Learn English?
The sheer volume of people who speak English make it a very popular choice around the world. In many countries around the world, English is the most obvious choice for a second language. There are of course drawbacks to English’s status as a lingua franca — including the fact that it gives an advantage to people born in predominantly English-speaking countries — but it’s undeniably a useful took that is ever-present in the worlds of business, entertainment, science and more.
If you’re reading this article, however, there’s an above average chance that you already know English. So we also want to highlight that it’s great 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.
Current research suggests that the English language is now spoken by approximately 1.35 billion people worldwide. That's 17% of the world's population.Where is English spoken in the world? ›
Five of the largest of these are sometimes described as the "core Anglosphere"; they are the United States of America (with at least 231 million native English speakers), the United Kingdom (60 million), Canada (19 million), Australia (at least 17 million), and New Zealand (4.8 million).What percentage of people can speak English? ›
About 1.35 billion people on Earth (population: 7.8 billion) speak English. That's more than 15% of the world's total population! No wonder it's regarded as the most spoken language in the world.Where are the most English speakers? ›
- United States — 332,915,073.
- United Kingdom — 68,207,116.
- Canada (except for Quebec) — 38,067,903.
- Australia — 25,788,215.
- Liberia — 5,180,203.
- Ireland — 4,982,907.
- New Zealand — 4,860,643.
- Jamaica — 2,973,463.
The rise of the English language is largely down to the rise of the British Empire. After developing in the British Isles, English was spread across the world via trade! In fact, one of the main goals of the British Empire was trade (buying and selling goods).Who speaks best English in the world? ›
3) The Anglo-Saxon migration
Old English was first spoken in the 5th century, and it looks incomprehensible to today's English-speakers. To give you an idea of just how different it was, the language the Angles brought with them had three genders (masculine, feminine, and neutral).
A word is a single unit of language that can be represented in writing or speech. In English, a word has a space on either side of it when it is written. The words stood out clearly on the page.Do most people speak English? ›
English is the world's most widely spoken language but is unusual in the fact that the vast majority of speakers are not 'native'. Of the approximately 1.5 billion people who speak English, less than 400 million use it as a first language. That means over 1 billion speak it as a secondary language.Which language is mostly spoken in world? ›
- English (1,132 million speakers)
- Mandarin (1,117 million speakers)
- Hindi (615 million speakers)
- Spanish (534 million speakers)
- French (280 million speakers)
- Arabic (274 million speakers)
- Russian (258 million speakers)
- Portuguese (234 million speakers)
Varieties and mixture of languages.
- South Africa.
It is the language of science, aviation, computers, diplomacy and tourism. Last but not least, it is the language of international communication, the media and the internet. Whether it is for professional or personal reasons, understanding the importance of English will help you reach your goals.What are the five important of language? ›
The importance of language is that it helps to question, provide answers to questions, communicate thoughts and desires, and understand the expression and feelings of others. Communication is possible via tone of voice, gestures, emotions, expressions and no doubt words.Why is English important for students? ›
English language plays an essential role in our lives as it helps in communication. It is the main language for studying any subject all over the world. English is important for students as it broadens their minds, develops emotional skills, improve the quality of life by providing job opportunities.Why is English the most spoken in the world? ›
When factoring in second-, third-, and higher language speakers, English is the largest language in the world. This is due first to the colonial influence of the British Empire, but later to the spread of American culture.Why English is the best language in the world? ›
English is flexible and easy to learn
One of the best assets of the English language and why it is so awesome is its flexibility. It is a huge entity of vocabulary and is constantly absorbing new words, whilst at the same time seeping into foreign languages. English contains over 750,000 words.
Ireland is undoubtedly one of the friendliest countries that speak English. It will be quite easy to keep a pulse on life in Ireland because, although Irish Gaelic is recognized as the official language, a mere 5% of the population actually speak it on a regular basis.Who invented English language? ›
English is a West Germanic language that originated from Ingvaeonic languages brought to Britain in the mid-5th to 7th centuries AD by Anglo-Saxon migrants from what is now northwest Germany, southern Denmark and the Netherlands.Is English the most powerful language? ›
Mandarin is the most widely spoken native language with almost one billion native speakers – more than Spanish and English combined. According to the influential Power Language Index (PLI), Mandarin ranks second only to English, both for the overall value of the language and for economic opportunities.
The variety of English with the largest number of native speakers is American English, with 225 million native speakers. The other major varieties of English are Canadian English, Australian English, New Zealand English, South African English and Indian English.What was the first English word? ›
According to a 2009 study by researchers at Reading University, the oldest words in the English language include “I“, “we“, “who“, “two” and “three“, all of which date back tens of thousands of years.Is English hard to learn? ›
The English language is widely regarded as one of the most difficult to master. Because of its unpredictable spelling and challenging to learn grammar, it is challenging for both learners and native speakers.What this 🤙 mean? ›
🤟 I Love You Gesture emoji
The love-you gesture or I love you hand sign emoji is the American Sign Language gesture for “I love you,” showing a hand with a raised index finger and pinky (little) finger and an extended thumb.
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- Ambigue. An ambiguous expression or statement.
- Athleisure. Comfortable and casual footwear & clothing designed for exercise and rigorous activity.
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In 2022, there were around 1.5 billion people worldwide who spoke English either natively or as a second language, slightly more than the 1.1 billion Mandarin Chinese speakers at the time of survey.Is English spoken by everyone? ›
We can't predict the future, but we can certainly learn from the past. And the answer to the above question is a resounding NO. Of course, you may have a difference of opinion, but consider the line of reasoning first.What was the first spoken language? ›
Dating back to at least 3500 BC, the oldest proof of written Sumerian was found in today's Iraq, on an artifact known as the Kish Tablet. Thus, given this evidence, Sumerian can also be considered the first language in the world.Which language is mostly in English? ›
However, the closest major language to English, is Dutch. With 23 million native speakers, and an additional 5 million who speak it as a second language, Dutch is the 3rd most-widely spoken Germanic language in the world after English and German.
- United States.
- United Kingdom.
- Switzerland. #1 in Best Countries Overall. ...
- Germany. #2 in Best Countries Overall. ...
- Canada. ...
- United States. ...
- Sweden. ...
- Japan. ...
- Australia. ...
- United Kingdom.
New Zealand has been ranked as the most peaceful English-speaking country in the world. New Zealand came 4th in the Institute for Economics and Peace's Global Peace Index, after Iceland, Denmark and Austria. That makes New Zealand the safest destination for English learning.Why is English important my life? ›
Knowing English increases your chances of getting a good job in a multinational company within your home country or for finding work abroad. It's also the language of international communication, the media and the internet, so learning English is important for socialising and entertainment as well as work!Why is English important short essay? ›
English has been regarded as the first global Lingua Franca. It has become part and parcel of almost every existing field. We use it as the international language to communicate in many fields ranging from business to entertainment. Many countries teach and encourage youngsters to acquire English as a second language.Why do I learn English essay? ›
1) Learning English is important because it is the most used language today. 2) English is important to adapt to digital technologies. 3) Learning English will help you to enhance your communication skills. 4) English is important to crack interviews of multinational companies.Why do we study language? ›
Studying a language gives you skills which can help you do well in other subjects. It improves your understanding of how English works, and enables you to hone problem-solving and analytical skills which are naturally applied to other subjects you are studying.What is learning and characteristics of learning? ›
Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals, and some machines; there is also evidence for some kind of learning in certain plants.Why is learning a language good? ›
Learning another language also provides many other benefits including greater academic achievement, greater cognitive development, and more positive attitudes towards other languages and cultures. Simply put, language learning is necessary for students to effectively function in the modern global marketplace.How much of English is actually English? ›
As lexicographer Kory Stamper explains, “English has been borrowing words from other languages since its infancy.” As many as 350 other languages are represented and their linguistic contributions actually make up about 80% of English!
Only about 6% of the world's population are native English speakers, and 75% of people don't speak English at all. Many people do not have access to high-quality health information, because it is not available in a language that they understand.How many people in the world only speak English? ›
In 2022, there were around 1.5 billion people worldwide who spoke English either natively or as a second language, slightly more than the 1.1 billion Mandarin Chinese speakers at the time of survey.Is English really the most spoken language? ›
What is the most spoken language in the world? Online language tool Babbel reports that English is the most spoken language in the world, with a number of speakers totaling more than 1.4 billion in 2022, according to Statistic & Data. This combines both native and non-native speakers.Why is English important? ›
It is the language of science, aviation, computers, diplomacy and tourism. Last but not least, it is the language of international communication, the media and the internet. Whether it is for professional or personal reasons, understanding the importance of English will help you reach your goals.Why English is important in our life? ›
Knowing English increases your chances of getting a good job in a multinational company within your home country or for finding work abroad. It's also the language of international communication, the media and the internet, so learning English is important for socialising and entertainment as well as work!Which country is poor at speaking English? ›
These include China, The Gambia, Malawi, Colombia, Swaziland, Brazil, Russia, Argentina, Algeria, Uganda, Yemen, Chile and Tanzania. We also used the EF English Proficiency Index, which ranks countries according to their English language proficiency.How many countries in the world speaks English? ›
English is the official language of 67 different countries and 27 non-sovereign entities around the world.Why is English the most spoken language in the world? ›
When factoring in second-, third-, and higher language speakers, English is the largest language in the world. This is due first to the colonial influence of the British Empire, but later to the spread of American culture.Which country speaks English very fast? ›
The Netherlands has emerged as the nation with the highest English language proficiency, according to the EF English Proficiency Index, with a score of 72.