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You have probably wondered about many things related to the use of English worldwide, and if you haven’t received an answer or if the situation is still blurred we gladly try to clear things up for you. HOW MANY PEOPLE SPEAK ENGLISH AS A FIRST, AND AS A SECOND, LANGUAGE, WORLDWIDE? Statistics are not always reliable, and there are many ways to ‘speak English’ - how does one define this? English can be a first, second, or occasional language, anywhere on a spectrum between standard
English at one extreme, and pidgin varieties at the other. However, estimates of first-language speakers range between 300 million and 400 million, with roughly the same number of secondlanguage speakers.
WHICH VARIETIES OF ENGLISH ARE SPOKEN BY THE LARGEST AND THE SMALLEST NUMBERS OF PEOPLE?
American English is the largest variety, spoken by 250 million people. It is difficult to select the variety with the smallest number of English-speakers (would only predominantly English-speaking countries be considered? would second-language speakers count?) but as an example, in 1993 the first-language speakers of English in Hong Kong were estimated to number 59,000. However, all English-speaking populations are undoubtedly
growing in numbers, so estimates become inaccurate quite rapidly!
HOW MANY COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD HAVE ENGLISH AS THEIR FIRST LANGUAGE?
This is a complicated question, as the definition of ‘first language’ differs from place to place, according to each country’s history and local circumstances. The following facts illustrate the complexities:
Australia, Botswana, the Commonwealth Caribbean nations, Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, Ireland, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States have English as either de facto or statutory official language. In Cameroon and Canada, English shares this status with French; and in the Nigerian states, English and the main local language are official. In Fiji, English is the official language with Fijian; in Lesotho with Sesotho; in Pakistan with Urdu; in the Phillipines with Filipino; and in Swaziland with Siswati. In India, English is an associate official language (after Hindi), and in Singapore English is one of four statutory official languages. In South Africa, English the main national language-but just one of eleven official languages.
In all, English has official or special status in at least 75 countries (with a combined population of two billion people). It is estimated that one out of four people worldwide speak English with some degree of competence.
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