Where do people speak English? It’s an important question if you’re wondering how important it is to speak English. There approximately 7.8 billion people in the world, and 1.35 billion speak English. That’s 17% of the world’s population that speaks English, so if you speak English, you can have a chat with 17% of people in the world. Amazingly enough, only 360 million people speak English as their first language, which means that there are about 3x as many non-native English speakers as there are native English speakers. So, odds are that most of the people you speak English with had to learn English just like you. They might also have mistakes in their English, just like you. Isn’t that a comforting thought?
Where do native English speakers come from?
Native English speakears come from:
UK (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
We’ll start with the most widely known English speaking countries. Weirdly enough, the most famous English speaking countries don’t give English any kind of official status. All of the countries in the above list (except Canada), do not have English an official language. English is the predominant language of both the government and the population, but it doesn’t have an official ‘de jure’ status.
There are other ways of thinking about the question “Where do people speak English?”. We can consider how official the language is.
Countries where English is an official language
These countries have designated English as a ‘de jure’ official language. This means that it is officially and legally recognised by the government and the courts.
Antigua and Barbuda
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
There are also places that are not fully sovereign countries which has English as a de jure official language
Akrotiri and Dhekelia
British Virgin Islands
Isle of Man
Northern Mariana Islands
Turks and Caicos Islands
U.S. Virgin Islands
Countries where English is a ‘de facto’ language
Lastly, there are countries where English is a de facto working language in government or education, but it does not have official de jure status. Essentially, English is spoken in the government and in school.
United Arab Emirates
In which countries do the most people speak English?
Maybe you aren’t bothered by whether English is an official de jure language, or just a de facto language. Let’s go back to our first question: Where do people speak English? If you went on vacation, where could you go and make use of your English skills? There are a few ways to look at it. Let’s start with the percentage of the population that speaks English. There are 42 countries where more than 80% of the population speaks English. That’s a lot of choice ranging from Europe, Africa, North America, Oceania, and the Caribean. There are 61 countries where at least half the population speak English. That’s 61 countries where you have a 1 in 2 chance of meeting someone that speaks English. Of course those figures are national, and big cities have very different numbers than national statistics. For example, in Poland, 37% of the population speaks English, while I would assume that a minimum of 60% of people in the capital city of Warsaw speak English.
The following table shows countries and the percentage of their population that speaks Enlgish.
|% of Population that speaks English
|Isle of Man
|U.S. Virgin Islands
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
|Trinidad and Tobago
|British Virgin Islands
|Northern Mariana Islands
|Antigua and Barbuda
|Saint Kitts and Nevis
|Federated States of Micronesia