What Is World English?

Use Our Definition and Examples to Help You Learn More

Little girl with a faraway look
According to some future projections, the largest number of English speakers in the world will be in China.

Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

The term World English (or World Englishes) refers to the English language as it is variously used throughout the world. It's also known as international English and global English.

The English language is now spoken in more than 100 countries. Varieties of World English include American English, Australian English, Babu English, Banglish, British English, Canadian English, Caribbean English, Chicano English, Chinese English, Denglish (Denglisch), Euro-English, Hinglish, Indian English, Irish English, Japanese English, New Zealand English, Nigerian English, Philippine English, Scottish English, Singapore English, South African English, Spanglish, Taglish, Welsh English, West African Pidgin English, and Zimbabwean English.

In an article titled "Squaring Circles," in the International Journal of Applied Linguistics, linguist Braj Kachru has divided the varieties of World English into three concentric circles: inner, outer, and expanding. Although these labels are imprecise and in some ways misleading, many scholars would agree with [academic author and writer,] Paul Bruthiaux, [Ph.D.,] that they offer "a useful shorthand for classifying contexts of English worldwide." Kachru also provides a simple graphic of the circle model of World Englishes in the slideshow, "World Englishes: Approaches, Issues, and Resources."

Author Henry Hitchings notes in his book, "The Language Wars," that the term world English "is still in use, but is contested by critics who believe it strikes too strong a note of dominance."

A Phase in the History of English

"World English has been defined as a phase in the history of the English language. This phase has witnessed the transformation of English from the mother tongue of a handful of nations to a language being used by far more speakers in non-mother tongue settings. The changes that have accompanied this spread—the multiplicity of varieties—result not from the faulty and imperfect learning of the non-mother tongue speakers, but from the nature of the process of microacquisition, language spread and change," says Janina Brutt-Griffler in her book "World English."

Standardized Patterns

In the introduction to the book, "English in the World: Global Rules, Global Roles," Rani Rubdy and Mario Saraceni point out: "The global spread of English, its causes and consequences, have long been a focus of critical discussion. One of the main concerns has been that of standardization. This is also because, unlike other international languages such as Spanish and French, English lacks any official body setting and prescribing the norms of the language. This apparent linguistic anarchy has generated a tension between those who seek stability of the code through some form of convergence and the forces of linguistic diversity that are inevitably set in motion when new demands are made on a language that has assumed a global role of such immense proportions.
"One consequence of the global predominance that English has gained over the last few decades is that today non-native speakers of English far outnumber its native speakers (Graddol 1997, Crystal 2003)."

In the "Oxford Guide to World English," Tom McArthur says, "[A]lthough world English is varied, certain varieties and registers are fairly tightly controlled, often through standardized patterns of use.... Thus, there is a marked uniformity in the following areas:

In the public usage of international airports, where, on signboards, English is often twinned with other languages, and announcements are commonly in English or are multilingual including English.

Newspapers and periodicals
English-language broadsheet newspapers and magazine-style periodicals, in which the texts are tightly edited...

Broadcast media
The programming of CNN, the BBC, and other especially TV news-and-views services, in which presentational formulas and formats are at least as crucial as in newspapers.

Computer use, email, and the internet/web
In such computer and internet services as those offered by Microsoft...."

Teaching World English

From Liz Ford's article in The Guardian, "UK Must Embrace 'Modern' English, Report Warns":

"The UK needs to abandon its outdated attitudes to English and embrace new forms of the language to maintain its influence in the global market, the left-wing think tank Demos said today.
"In a series of recommendations, the report, 'As you like it: Catching up in an age of global English,' says that far from being corruptions of English, new versions of the language, such as 'Chinglish' and 'Singlish' (Chinese and Singaporean varieties of English) have values 'that we must learn to accommodate and relate to.'
"It says the UK should focus English teaching on how the language is now used around the world, 'not according to arcane strictures of how it should be spoken and written.'...
"The report's authors, Samuel Jones and Peter Bradwell, say change is vital if the UK wants to maintain its influence around the world....
"'We have retained ways of thinking about the English language that were more suited to empire than they are to a modern, globalised world, and we are at risk of becoming outdated,' says the report."


Bruthiaux, Paul. "Squaring the Circles." International Journal of Applied Linguistics, vol. 13, no. 2, 2003, pp. 159-178.

Brutt-Griffler, Janina. World English: A Study of Its Development. Multilingual Matters, 2002.

Ford, Liz. "UK Must Embrace 'Modern' English, Report Warns." The Guardian [UK], 15 March, 2007.

Hitchings, Henry. The Language Wars: A History of Proper English. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011.

Kachru, Braj B. “World Englishes: Approaches, Issues, and Resources,” p. 8, SlideShare.

McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Guide to World English. Oxford University Press, 2002.

Rubdy, Rani and Mario Saraceni. “Introduction.” English in the World: Global Rules, Global Roles, edited by Rani Rubdy and Mario Saraceni, Continuum, 2006.

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Nordquist, Richard. "What Is World English?" ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, thoughtco.com/world-englishes-1692509. Nordquist, Richard. (2021, July 31). What Is World English? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/world-englishes-1692509 Nordquist, Richard. "What Is World English?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/world-englishes-1692509 (accessed May 28, 2023).