At the beginning of the 21st century, it is beyond question that the English language has become the lingua franca
, the language used for communication between people living in different countries in the world. The famous British linguist, Professor David Crystal
in his book "English as a Global Language
" states that English has become a global language because it has been at the right place at the right time.
Speakers of English nowadays, comprise a very large number of people accross the globe. Figures vary considerably, but it is believed that nearly one quarter of the world’s population, or between 1.2 and 1.5 billion people, are already fluent or competent in English (Crystal, 1997). The British Council estimates that about 375 million people speak English as a first language, another 375 million speak it regularly as a second language, and about 750 million more people speak English as a foreign language. English currently is the language most often taught as a second language around the world.
Of those nations where English is spoken as a second language, India has the most such speakers ('Indian English') and it has been claimed that, combining native and non-native speakers, now India is the country with the largest English-speaking population in the world. Ten years ago that record was held by the US. (Subcontinent Raises Its Voice, Crystal, David; Guardian Weekly: Friday November 19, 2004.
Today, English is considered the universal language for business, international communications, entertainment, tourism, trade and technology. The majority of all resources on the internet are in English, affecting people to learn English to take full advantage of it. Above all, learning English is important for being able to exchange views and make friends with people all over the world.
English has an official or special status in more than 70 countries with a total population of over two billion.
Some of the countries in which English has an official status:
---> Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Dominica, Gambia, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Liberia, The Bahamas, United Kingdom (de facto
), Australia (de facto
), USA (de facto
---> Cameroon, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Kenya, Kiribati, Kosovo, Lesotho, Malta, New Zealand (de facto
), Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Zimbabwe
English is one of the 11 official languages that are given equal status in South Africa. It is also an important language in several former colonies or current dependent territories of the United Kingdom and the United States, such as in Hong Kong and Mauritius.
The following is a list of sovereign states and territories where English is an official language. The status of English as a country's official language does not necessarily correlate with the number of English-speakers in that country.
(List of countries where English is an official language)
See also a list of countries of the world sorted by the total English-speaking population in that country. This includes both native speakers and second language speakers of English.
(List of countries by English-speaking population)
English is not the official language of either the U.S. or the U.K., although it has long been the de facto national language in both countries.
http://www.nvtc.gov/lotw/months/november/USlanguages.html Languages Spoken in the U.S., National Virtual Translation Center, 2006
http://www.us-english.org/foundation/research/olp/viewResearch.asp?CID=22&TID=1 U.S. English Foundation, Official Language Research -- United Kingdom
Although the U.S. federal government has no official languages, English has been given official status by 27 of the 50 state governments.
http://www.englishfirst.org/efstates.htm 28 States Have Made English Official (27 State Laws Still in Effect). Englishfirst.org
English like German, Spanish, Chinese, etc. is a pluricentric language. This means, that there are more than one version of standard English. The main regional standards of English are British, American (US), Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, South African, Indian, and Caribbean. (And each of these regional varieties of English has a number of highly differentiated local dialects.)
David Crystal says: "Experts on English these days are fond of the unexpected plural: We find books and articles talking about 'the English languages' or 'the new Englishes'. What they are emphasizing is the remarkable variety which can be observed in the way sounds, spellings, grammar and vocabulary are used within the English speaking world." (Crystal, "The English language")