List of English Speaking Countries In the World
Which countries have English speakers? Find below a list of English speaking countries in the world.
English is often considered as the most spoken language in the world, which is partly true. With over 2 billion speakers, English is considered as the most spoken language but comes third in terms of native speakers compared to Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. With such a vast amount of speakers, it’s no surprise that many countries use English as either an official or unofficial language.
Where is English spoken?
Originating from the United Kingdom, English has spread to all corners of the world. While the majority of speakers reside in the United States and Europe, you might be surprised to see some of the countries in this list!
Because of England’s history of colonization, English has been introduced to every continent and the use of media and importance in business affairs has made it a primary language in many countries.
As of 2019, English is one of the official languages of 35 countries worldwide. Although some of these countries have more than one official language, English is a common second language around the world. To understand the regions better, here is a breakdown by continent.
English Speakers Across North America
- Capital City: Washington D.C.
- Number of Native Speakers: 235 million
- Characteristics of English from the United States: Different regions have their own subtle accents/dialects
- Unique English words/phrases: lit, dope, and yas are all common slang words
- Capital City: Ottawa
- Number of Native Speakers: 20 million
- Characteristics of English from Canada: English from Canada sounds very similar to English spoken in the United States but with a slight variation in certain vowel sounds
- Unique English words/phrases: ‘eh’ is often used to turn a thought into a question along with many other uses
English Speakers In Europe
- Capital City: London
- Number of Native Speakers: 55 million
- Characteristics of English from the United Kingdom: Like English in the United States, English in the United Kingdom also varies depending on what region you’re in. British accents are most often used in the UK.
- Unique English words/phrases: skive – play hooky/skip school, bloke – male, bagsy – shotgun equivalent (in the US)
- Capital City: Dublin
- Number of Native Speakers: 5 million
- Characteristics of Irish English: Ireland has a distinct English dialect that is different from the English spoken in the UK and Australia.
- Unique English words/phrases: boyo – male juvenile, craic – fun/gossip, mot – girlfriend (Dublin slang)
- Capital City: Valletta
- Number of Native Speakers: 318,000
- Characteristics of Maltese English: English in Malta is heavily influenced by Maltese and Italian
- Unique English words/phrases: ta – you know?, ejja – hurry up, jaqq – that’s disgusting
English Speakers In Oceania
- Capital City: Canberra
- Number of Native Speakers: 15 million
- Characteristics of Australian English: Australian English may sound similar to British English, but there are some distinctions between some of the vowel pronunciations.
- Unique English words/phrases: arvo – afternoon, barbie – barbeque, mozzie – mosquito
- -Capital City: Wellington
- Number of Native Speakers: 4 million
- Characteristics of English from New Zealand: New Zealand English and Australian English are very similar to each other, but there is a distinct difference in the pronunciation of vowels and which vowels they put emphasis on
- Unique English words/phrases: chilly bin – portable cooler, jandals – flip-flops, tramping – hiking
There are many other English speaking countries in Oceania including Papua New Guinea and Samoa.
English Speakers Across Asia
- Capital City: New Delhi
- Number of Native Speakers: 226,449
- Characteristics of English in India: Most English speakers in India speak with a non-rhotic accent.
- Unique English words/phrases: rubber – eraser, picture – movie/film, mention not – you’re welcome
- Capital City: Manila
- Number of Native Speakers: 37,000
- Characteristics of English in the Philippines: English is spoken with a rhotic accent in the Philippines due to the influence of the first language (Philippine languages) of many natives who live there
- Unique English words/phrases: salvage – murder, videoke – combining karaoke with video, comfort room – bathroom
There are many other English speaking countries in Asia including Singapore and Pakistan.
English Speakers Across Africa
- Capital City: Freetown
- Number of Native Speakers: 500,000
- Characteristics of English in Sierra Leone: The Sierra Leonean English accent is one of the rarest English accents in the world with the r being pronounced as a voiced uvular fricative.
- Unique English words/phrases: biabia – beard, plant – braids, pikin – child
- Capital Cities: Cape Town, Pretoria, Bloemfontein
- Number of Native Speakers: Around 4.9 million
- Characteristics of English in South Africa: Within South African English, there are different varieties such as White South African English, Black South African English, and Indian South African English.
- Unique English words/phrases: babbelas – hangover, lekker – great/tasty, sarmie – sandwich
- Capital City: Harare
- Number of Native Speakers: 250,000
- Characteristics of English in Zimbabwe: Zimbabwean English closely resembles South African English in terms of accent and pronunciation.
- Unique English words/phrases: gwash – unrefined, kenge – good, slops – flip flops
There are many other English speaking countries in Africa including Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
English Speaking Islands and Territories
In addition to the countries listed above, there are a handful more of English territories and islands that are also English speaking.
Of these territories, the majority of them have French listed as an official (de facto) language.
These countries are: Akrotiri and Dhekelia, American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Christmas Island, Curacao, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guam, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Jersey, Norfolk Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Pitcairn Islands, Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Turks and Caicos Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands.
English as an Unofficial Language Around the World
There are also many countries around the world that consider English to be an unofficial or de facto language. Though it may not be an official language in these countries, it is widely used.
These include: Bangladesh, Brunei, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Israel, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, British Indian Ocean Territory, Guernsey, Montserrat, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Cocos, and Tokelau.
Can all English speakers understand each other?
For the most part, yes! Unlike some other languages, the accents and variations do not prohibit the speakers from understanding each other. Although there are many accents and outside influences, English is generally standardised.
So, the next time you travel abroad, be comforted in knowing that there are millions of English speakers around the world!