The English Language: Facts and Figures

English is geographically the most widely spoken language on Earth (as shown in the red in the picture above) and the language most commonly used in international business and travel (a lot of credit goes to British colonialism and the American military on this one). After scouring the internet, I have reached the conclusion that there are between 30-60 countries that have English as their official language, or at least 1 of their official languages.  This website lists the number of countries with English as the official language at 51 and also has some other nifty stats and background info.

The English Language by the numbers:

  • English is the official language of 52 countries.
  • 104 countries have substantial numbers of native English speakers.
  • It is third most spoken language by population (after Mandarin and Hindi) with around 340 million native English speakers. Presumably, there are more than twice as many that speak it as a second or third language.

When you think of the world’s preeminent English speaking countries, the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand probably come to mind. It may surprise you to find out that English is not the official language of any of these countries. English is simply the de facto language. Why is this? Establishing an official language may have seemed incongruent with the pluralist, multicultural ethos of these countries, or perhaps it just seemed superfluous. Either way, if the U.S. wants to move forward with establishing English as an official language, there is no equivalent native English speaking country to examine as a clear precedent to provide insight on all of the economic, demographic, and social changes that will inevitably occur.

* The other populous predominantly English speaking countries I did not mention such as South Africa and Canada have more than one official language

**92% of countries have at least 1 official language

“English is destined to be in the next and succeeding centuries more generally the language of the world than Latin was in the last or French is in the present age.”

-John Adams


About officialenglishpolicy

I am a George Mason Graduate student on a public policy quest to enlighten the masses. "Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. He who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or decisions possible or impossible to execute." -Abraham Lincoln
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