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While English being a common language might seem a no-brainer, you might be curious to figure out just how many people speak English?
If your goal is to be able to travel more and make yourself understood with traveling, is English really spoken that much in the areas you’re interested in? Or, if you're hoping to work or set up a business in another region, can you really make meaningful business connections by speaking in English?
You might be interested in knowing the answers to those questions before hiring an English tutor, so in this post, we’re going to take a look at how many people speak English around the world.
English is now the language with the most number of speakers around the world. According to the 2019 edition of Ethnologue, there are a total of 1.268 billion English-speakers in the world.
The spread of modern English around the world can be traced to the 17th century, during the time when the British were building their Empire and the United States was discovered and was now beginning to rebel against the British colonizers.
For an example of how the British Empire helped the English language to spread, let’s look at how many people speak English in India. There are currently about 125,344,727 English speakers in India, with 226,449 identifying it as their first language and 86,125,221 as their second language.
Of the total number of English-speakers in the world, there are 369.7 million who speak it as their first language. This makes it the 3rd most common first language in the world, compared to how many people speak Chinese and Spanish.
Chinese is the most common first language with 921.5 million speakers, while Spanish is the second most common first language with 463 million speakers.
There are 898.4 million people who say that English is their second language, this makes it the most common second language in the world followed by Hindi and French.
If you are curious about how many people speak Hindi in the world, there are 637.3 million, with 342 million speaking it as their first language. If they speak a second language, there is a good chance it is English.
Meanwhile, French is the third-most common second language in the world. How many people speak French as their second language? That’s about 199.3 million.
There are 60 territories where English serves as an official language. This doesn’t mean it’s the first language or necessarily the native language, but it does mean that it’s the language used by the government.
Since English really spread across the world due to the activities of the British Empire, a majority of the places where English is still an official language includes a lot of former colonies or territories.
Antigua and Barbuda
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
As is probably to be expected, the United States has the most native speakers of English in the world. Even more than the United Kingdom as their population is greater than that of the UK. All in all, there are about 300 million native English speakers in the US.
After America, Canada has the most number of English speakers in the Americas, According to Statistics Canada, in their 2016 Census, 22,162,865 Canadians said English was the language that they spoke most often while at home.
In the Central Americas only Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize have a significant number of English speakers. Spanish is still the official language in this part of the globe. It should be noted, however, that Belize is the only Central American country with English as its official language.
In South America, a majority of the population speak Spanish or Portuguese, but English is the third most common language that isn’t an indigenous dialect. There are around 5.4 million English speakers in this region, mostly from Argentina and Columbia.
Of course, English is still widely spoken in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The UK has a total of about 59,600,000 English speakers, with 54,400,000 considering it their first language while Ireland has 4,350,000 English speakers, with 4,122,100 calling it their first language.
According to a 2012 report by the European Commission, “Europeans and their Languages”, English is the second most widely spoken mother tongue in the EU, after German and tied with Italian. It is also the most widely spoken foreign language in the member states where it is not an official language.
Germany has a pretty large contingent of English speakers, around 45,400,000. So does Italy with 17,000,000, and the Netherlands with 15,250,000. English speaking in the Netherlands is actually quite widespread as that accounts for about 90% of their population.
In the continent of Africa, you will find most of the English speaking population in countries that were formerly colonies. Compared to the total population of about 1 billion, only about 130 million speak English and only 6,500,000 consider it their native tongue.
Nigeria has the largest contingent of English speakers, with 108,036,049. Next comes South Africa with 16,424,417, then Kenya with 8,100,000, followed by Cameroon with 7,500,000.
India and Pakistan have the most number of English speakers in Asia. Not surprising given their history with the British Empire.
India has 125,344,737 English speakers with 125,344,737, but only 226,449 consider it their first language. Pakistan has 108,036,049 English speakers with 8,642,883 considering it their first language.
The Philippines may have been a colony of Spain, but it was under the US till it gained its independence. American English is still quite common in this country, which has 64,025,890 English speakers. Of this, 36,935 consider it their first language.
Special mention should go to Singapore, which has “only” 4,218,737 English speakers, but that makes up 83% of their population. Only 36% of these consider it their first language, however, as it is only one of four official languages including Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil.
Maybe you are curious about how many people speak Japanese versus how many people speak English in Japan? Well, as we mentioned before, English is only the 3rd most spoken language in the world if we count native speakers or those who consider it their first language. Japanese is the 8th with around 128 million native speakers.
There are a substantial number of English speakers in Japan but Japanese is still the official and national language. Thus, many people who do speak English count it as an additional language.
Arabic is still the most commonly spoken language in the Middle East. How many people speak Arabic? About 422 million people speak Arabic and it is the fifth most spoken language in the world.
In the Middle East, English is usually considered as a “business” language and taught as a second language in schools and universities. It’s not really considered a native language.
Egypt has a good portion of English-language speakers, around 35 percent of their population, however, it is rarely thought of as a first language. Around 35 percent of the population of Iraq also considers English a second language.
Israel has a big percentage of their population, around 84.97% saying they can speak English, but only 1% of that says it’s their first language.
Aside from native languages or dialects, the most common languages spoken in the Caribbean tend to be Spanish, French, Dutch, or English. The prevalence of these four European languages is a result of colonization and the official language of the territory tends to be the language of the colonial power that held the island either first or for the longest period of time.
English is the official language of about 18 territories in the Caribbean, it is also considered the official language of the tourism industry so even if you are not in an area where English is the official language, there’s a good chance people there speak it as a second or additional language.
Jamaica, which is one of the biggest and most populous islands in the Caribbean, was originally conquered by Spain but became a British colony and stayed so till 1962. Its official language remains English, with its national language being Jamaican Patois which is basically identical to English – with differences in pronunciation and vocabulary.
There are 2,650,000 English speakers in Jamaica or about 97% of the population. Around 45,9000 consider it their first language, while 50,000 would classify it as their second language.
Puerto Rico, which is still considered a US territory, has both English and Spanish as their official languages. Spain is still the primary language though, with English being the primary language of only 10% of the population. English is taught as a second language and is compulsory in schools.
There are around 1,910,000 English speakers in Puerto Rico, with only about 100,000 considering it their first language and the rest considering it a second or additional language.
Oceana is the world region that included Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. So this includes Australia and New Zealand, former British Colonies, and current members of the Commonwealth.
As is common with former British colonies, both Australia and New Zealand have English as one of their official languages. It also tends to be the dominant language spoken and used daily.
Australia has 97% (17,357,833) of its population identified as English-speakers, with 70% (15,013,965) claiming it as their first language. New Zealand also has around 97% (3,673,623) of their population identifying as English-Speakers, with 85% (3,673,623) claiming it as their first language.
English might “only” be the third most common language in the world, but as you can see you’re quite likely to run into English speakers wherever you go.
English is considered a “lingua franca” or a common language of communication between people who might not share a native language or speak the same dialect.
It is also officially and unofficially a language that is often spoken or understood in the business and government sectors. Where ever you go, and whatever your purpose might be going there,
English is a good language to know to make sure you can make yourself understood.
English, with around 1,132 total speakers.
In 2019, the most spoken languages was English.
Around 1.5 billion people
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