English as a Global Language

Global English, World English, and the Rise of English as a Lingua Franca

Volume of Shakespeare
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In Shakespeare's time, the number of English speakers in the world is thought to have been between five and seven million. According to linguist David Crystal, "Between the end of the reign of Elizabeth I (1603) and the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth II (1952), this figure increased almost fiftyfold, to around 250 million" (The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, 2003). It's a common language used in international business, which makes it a popular second language for many.

How Many Languages Are There?

There are roughly 6,500 languages spoken in the world today. About 2,000 of them have fewer than 1,000 speakers. While the British empire did help spread the language globally it's only the third most commonly spoken language in the world. Mandarin and Spanish are the two most commonly spoken languages on Earth. 

From How Many Other Languages Has English Borrowed Words?

English is jokingly referred to as a language thief because of it has incorporated words from over 350 other languages into it. The majority of these "borrowed" words are latin or from one of the Romance languages.

How Many People in the World Today Speak English?

Roughly 500 million people in the world are native English speakers. Another 510 million people speak English as a second language, which means that there are more people who speak English along with their native language than there are native English speakers.

In How Many Countries Is English Taught as a Foreign Language?

English is taught as a foreign language in over 100 countries. It's considered the language of business which makes it a popular choice for a second language. English language teachers are often paid very well in countries like China and Dubai.

What Is the Most Widely Used English Word?

"The form OK or okay is probably the most intensively and widely used (and borrowed) word in the history of the language. Its many would-be etymologists have traced it variously to Cockney, French, Finnish, German, Greek, Norwegian, Scots, several African languages, and the Native American language Choctaw, as well as a number of personal names. All are imaginative feats without documentary support." (Tom McArthur, The Oxford Guide to World English. Oxford University Press, 2002)

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 a 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 Philippines 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 [is] 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." (Penny Silva, "Global English." AskOxford.com, 2009)

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Nordquist, Richard. "English as a Global Language." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/english-as-a-global-language-1692652. Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). English as a Global Language. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/english-as-a-global-language-1692652 Nordquist, Richard. "English as a Global Language." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/english-as-a-global-language-1692652 (accessed June 9, 2023).