English is the most widely spoken language in the world, and it’s considered as the global language. As people around the world become increasingly connected, English has also become the dominant language of global communication, especially on the Internet.
English as a Language
The English language has Latin origins. English came from the Anglo-Saxon settlers, a group of Germanic people who brought settled in Britain in the first millennium AD. The language evolved from a combination of the German Anglo-Saxon and Old English tongue, which was commonly used around the 5th century. The sentence structure and vocabulary of English is close to languages such as Dutch and German, but many other languages heavily influence it. In fact, 50% of the words used in the English language today came from French.
In the past, English was a bourgeoisie language or language of the middle class. But today, it rose to a prestigious status across the world.
English Language around the World
More than 370 million people are native English speakers, but about 2 billion people worldwide can speak the language. It’s the largest language by several speakers, and the third-largest one by the number of native speakers.
English is being used as the official language for business and science world, and of course, the Internet. By international treaty, it’s also the official language for maritime and aeronautical communications. It’s also one of the official languages in the United Nations and other international organizations.
Countries with the Most English Speakers
While English is used as the official global language, not all countries that use the English language have it as their native tongue. The majority of the native English speakers reside in:
- United States of America – 268 million speakers
- United Kingdom – 60 million
- Canada – 29 million
- Australia – 25.1 million
- New Zealand – 4.9 million
- Ireland – 4.7 million
These are not all the countries with the most number of English speakers. Most English speakers in the world use it as a second language. Here are the nations with the most English speakers:
- United States – 268 million
Undoubtedly, the United States has the world’s largest English-speaking population. They may not speak the Queen’s English correctly, but American English has been the most popular version of the language because of its high number of speakers. Around 225 million Americans speak it as their first language, while 43 million use it as a second language.
- India – 125 million
India is a large nation with more than a billion citizens. About 125 million Indians are English speakers, but only around 200 thousand of them speak it as a first language. Indian English is a close variant of British English, and it’s the regional variant of the language spoken in the country. India is claimed to be the country with the most people who can speak or understand the English language, but most scholars and researchers dispute this assertion. Many Indians speak Hinglish, a hybrid of the English and Hindi languages. It’s the preferred language among the urban and semi-urban educated youth in India.
- Pakistan – 94 million
You might be surprised that Pakistan is on this list. English is one of the official languages in the country, along with Urdu as a result of British rule. While it’s rare for a Pakistani to speak English as a first language (because the Urdu language is the preferred choice), about half of the population can speak it as a second language. Pakistan is the only Islamic country in which English is official.
- Philippines – 90 million
In the Philippines, English is an official language, along with Filipino. More than 92% of the population can speak English as a second language, while only around 37 thousand Filipinos use it as a first language. Due to the highly multi-lingual nature of the Philippines, code-switching such as Taglish (a hybrid of Tagalog and English) and Bislish (a combination of English with any Visayan language) is common among casual settings to even formal discussions. Philippine English is highly based in American English.
- Nigeria – 79 million
The country of Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa and has one of the highest GDP growths in the world. This economic improvement is probably because they adapted the English language as a co-official language. Around 53% of the population can speak English, and a small percentage has native proficiency in the English language. Nigerian English is based on British English, but American English has recently influenced it. Also, Nigerians use loan words from the native language, along with English, to express concepts that are specific to their culture.
- United Kingdom – 60 million
Around 98% of the people in the UK speak English, but its small size and small population mean that countries like the Philippines and Nigeria have more English speakers. Obviously, the original British English originated from the United Kingdom, although a unified concept of British English is difficult to pinpoint and apply to the spoken language.