Babylon 10
The world's best online dictionary

Download it's free

The English-Speaking World

Following on the footsteps of the British Empire and the technological and finance revolution of the twentieth century, the English language has become the world's ultimate lingua franca. Little did the likes of Shakespeare know that his language was to become one of the most widely spoken languages in history. Below you have a list where the English language has managed to establish itself as either the official language, or a language of the highest importance:


Country Languages (%)
Akrotiri English, Greek
American Samoa Samoan 90.6% (closely related to Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages), English 2.9%, Tongan 2.4%, other Pacific islander 2.1%, other 2%

note: most people are bilingual (2000 census)
Anguilla English (official)
Antigua and Barbuda English (official), local dialects
Argentina Spanish (official), Italian, English, German, French
Aruba Papiamento (a Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch-English dialect) 66.3%, Spanish 12.6%, English (widely spoken) 7.7%, Dutch (official) 5.8%, other 2.2%, unspecified or unknown 5.3% (2000 census)
Australia English 78.5%, Chinese 2.5%, Italian 1.6%, Greek 1.3%, Arabic 1.2%, Vietnamese 1%, other 8.2%, unspecified 5.7% (2006 Census)
Bahamas, The English (official), Creole (among Haitian immigrants)
Bahrain Arabic, English, Farsi, Urdu
Bangladesh Bangla (official, also known as Bengali), English
Barbados English
Belize Spanish 46%, Creole 32.9%, Mayan dialects 8.9%, English 3.9% (official), Garifuna 3.4% (Carib), German 3.3%, other 1.4%, unknown 0.2% (2000 census)
Bermuda English (official), Portuguese
Botswana Setswana 78.2%, Kalanga 7.9%, Sekgalagadi 2.8%, English 2.1% (official), other 8.6%, unspecified 0.4% (2001 census)
Brazil Portuguese (official and most widely spoken language); note - less common languages include Spanish (border areas and schools), German, Italian, Japanese, English, and a large number of minor Amerindian languages
British Virgin Islands English (official)
Brunei Malay (official), English, Chinese
Cambodia Khmer (official) 95%, French, English
Cameroon 24 major African language groups, English (official), French (official)
Canada English (official) 59.3%, French (official) 23.2%, other 17.5%
Cayman Islands English 95%, Spanish 3.2%, other 1.8% (1999 census)
Chile Spanish (official), Mapudungun, German, English
Christmas Island English (official), Chinese, Malay
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Malay (Cocos dialect), English
Cook Islands English (official), Maori
Costa Rica Spanish (official), English
Cyprus Greek, Turkish, English
Dhekelia English, Greek
Dominica English (official), French patois
Egypt Arabic (official), English and French widely understood by educated classes
European Union Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Gaelic, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish

note: only official languages are listed; German, the major language of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, is the most widely spoken mother tongue - over 19% of the EU population; English is the most widely spoken language - about 49% of the EU population is conversant with it (2007)
Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) English
Fiji English (official), Fijian (official), Hindustani
Gambia, The English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars
Gaza Strip Arabic, Hebrew (spoken by many Palestinians), English (widely understood)
Gibraltar English (used in schools and for official purposes), Spanish, Italian, Portuguese
Greece Greek 99% (official), other 1% (includes English and French)
Greenland Greenlandic (East Inuit) (official), Danish, English
Grenada English (official), French patois
Guam English 38.3%, Chamorro 22.2%, Philippine languages 22.2%, other Pacific island languages 6.8%, Asian languages 7%, other languages 3.5% (2000 census)
Guernsey English, French, Norman-French dialect spoken in country districts
Guyana English, Amerindian dialects, Creole, Caribbean Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), Urdu
Iceland Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken
India Hindi 41%, Bengali 8.1%, Telugu 7.2%, Marathi 7%, Tamil 5.9%, Urdu 5%, Gujarati 4.5%, Kannada 3.7%, Malayalam 3.2%, Oriya 3.2%, Punjabi 2.8%, Assamese 1.3%, Maithili 1.2%, other 5.9%

note: English enjoys associate status but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication; Hindi is the most widely spoken language and primary tongue of 41% of the people; there are 14 other official languages: Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Sanskrit; Hindustani is a popular variant of Hindi/Urdu spoken widely throughout northern India but is not an official language (2001 census)
Indonesia Bahasa Indonesia (official, modified form of Malay), English, Dutch, local dialects (the most widely spoken of which is Javanese)
Ireland English (official) is the language generally used, Irish (Gaelic or Gaeilge) (official) spoken mainly in areas along the western coast
Isle of Man English, Manx Gaelic
Israel Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language
Jamaica English, English patois
Jersey English 94.5% (official), Portuguese 4.6%, other 0.9% (2001 census)
Jordan Arabic (official), English widely understood among upper and middle classes
Kenya English (official), Kiswahili (official), numerous indigenous languages
Kiribati I-Kiribati, English (official)
Korea, South Korean, English widely taught in junior high and high school
Kuwait Arabic (official), English widely spoken
Laos Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages
Lebanon Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian
Lesotho Sesotho (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa
Liberia English 20% (official), some 20 ethnic group languages few of which can be written or used in correspondence
Libya Arabic, Italian, English, all are widely understood in the major cities
Madagascar English (official), French (official), Malagasy (official)
Malaysia Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai

note: in East Malaysia there are several indigenous languages; most widely spoken are Iban and Kadazan
Maldives Maldivian Dhivehi (dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic), English spoken by most government officials
Malta Maltese (official) 90.2%, English (official) 6%, multilingual 3%, other 0.8% (2005 census)
Marshall Islands Marshallese (official) 98.2%, other languages 1.8% (1999 census)

note: English (official), widely spoken as a second language
Mauritius Creole 80.5%, Bhojpuri 12.1%, French 3.4%, English (official; spoken by less than 1% of the population), other 3.7%, unspecified 0.3% (2000 census)
Micronesia, Federated States of English (official and common language), Chuukese, Kosrean, Pohnpeian, Yapese, Ulithian, Woleaian, Nukuoro, Kapingamarangi
Monaco French (official), English, Italian, Monegasque
Montserrat English
Namibia English 7% (official), Afrikaans common language of most of the population and about 60% of the white population, German 32%, indigenous languages 1% (includes Oshivambo, Herero, Nama)
Nauru Nauruan (official; a distinct Pacific Island language), English widely understood, spoken, and used for most government and commercial purposes
Nepal Nepali 47.8%, Maithali 12.1%, Bhojpuri 7.4%, Tharu (Dagaura/Rana) 5.8%, Tamang 5.1%, Newar 3.6%, Magar 3.3%, Awadhi 2.4%, other 10%, unspecified 2.5% (2001 census)

note: many in government and business also speak English (2001 est.)
Netherlands Antilles Papiamento 65.4% (a Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch-English dialect), English 15.9% (widely spoken), Dutch 7.3% (official), Spanish 6.1%, Creole 1.6%, other 1.9%, unspecified 1.8% (2001 census)
New Zealand English (official), Maori (official), Sign Language (official)
Nigeria English (official), Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani
Niue Niuean, a Polynesian language closely related to Tongan and Samoan; English
Norfolk Island English (official), Norfolk - a mixture of 18th century English and ancient Tahitian
Northern Mariana Islands Philippine languages 24.4%, Chinese 23.4%, Chamorro 22.4%, English 10.8%, other Pacific island languages 9.5%, other 9.6% (2000 census)
Oman Arabic (official), English, Baluchi, Urdu, Indian dialects
Palau Palauan 64.7% official in all islands except Sonsoral (Sonsoralese and English are official), Tobi (Tobi and English are official), and Angaur (Angaur, Japanese, and English are official), Filipino 13.5%, English 9.4%, Chinese 5.7%, Carolinian 1.5%, Japanese 1.5%, other Asian 2.3%, other languages 1.5% (2000 census)
Panama Spanish (official), English 14%; note - many Panamanians bilingual
Papua New Guinea Tok Pisin, English, and Hiri Motu are official languages; some 860 indigenous languages spoken (over one-tenth of the world's total)

note: Tok Pisin, a creole language, is widely used and understood; English is spoken by 1%-2%; Hiri Motu is spoken by less than 2%
Philippines Filipino (official; based on Tagalog) and English (official); eight major dialects - Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinan
Pitcairn Islands English (official), Pitkern (mixture of an 18th century English dialect and a Tahitian dialect)
Puerto Rico Spanish, English
Qatar Arabic (official), English commonly used as a second language
Rwanda Kinyarwanda (official) universal Bantu vernacular, French (official), English (official), Kiswahili (Swahili) used in commercial centers
Saint Barthelemy French (primary), English
Saint Helena English
Saint Kitts and Nevis English
Saint Lucia English (official), French patois
Saint Martin French (official language), English, Dutch, French Patois, Spanish, Papiamento (dialect of Netherlands Antilles)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines English, French patois
Samoa Samoan (Polynesian), English
Seychelles Creole 91.8%, English 4.9% (official), other 3.1%, unspecified 0.2% (2002 census)
Sierra Leone English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)
Singapore Mandarin 35%, English 23%, Malay 14.1%, Hokkien 11.4%, Cantonese 5.7%, Teochew 4.9%, Tamil 3.2%, other Chinese dialects 1.8%, other 0.9% (2000 census)
Slovenia Slovenian 91.1%, Serbo-Croatian 4.5%, other or unspecified 4.4% (2002 census)
Solomon Islands Melanesian pidgin in much of the country is lingua franca; English (official but spoken by only 1%-2% of the population); 120 indigenous languages
Somalia Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English
South Africa IsiZulu 23.8%, IsiXhosa 17.6%, Afrikaans 13.3%, Sepedi 9.4%, English 8.2%, Setswana 8.2%, Sesotho 7.9%, Xitsonga 4.4%, other 7.2% (2001 census)
Sri Lanka Sinhala (official and national language) 74%, Tamil (national language) 18%, other 8%

note: English is commonly used in government and is spoken competently by about 10% of the population
Sudan Arabic (official), English (official), Nubian, Ta Bedawie, diverse dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanic languages

note: program of "Arabization" in process
Suriname Dutch (official), English (widely spoken), Sranang Tongo (Surinamese, sometimes called Taki-Taki, is native language of Creoles and much of the younger population and is lingua franca among others), Caribbean Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), Javanese
Swaziland English (official, government business conducted in English), siSwati (official)
Switzerland German (official) 63.7%, French (official) 20.4%, Italian (official) 6.5%, Serbo-Croatian 1.5%, Albanian 1.3%, Portuguese 1.2%, Spanish 1.1%, English 1%, Romansch (official) 0.5%, other 2.8% (2000 census)

note: German, French, Italian, and Romansch are all national and official languages
Syria Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood
Tanzania Kiswahili or Swahili (official), Kiunguja (name for Swahili in Zanzibar), English (official, primary language of commerce, administration, and higher education), Arabic (widely spoken in Zanzibar), many local languages

note: Kiswahili (Swahili) is the mother tongue of the Bantu people living in Zanzibar and nearby coastal Tanzania; although Kiswahili is Bantu in structure and origin, its vocabulary draws on a variety of sources including Arabic and English; it has become the lingua franca of central and eastern Africa; the first language of most people is one of the local languages
Thailand Thai, English (secondary language of the elite), ethnic and regional dialects
Timor-Leste Tetum (official), Portuguese (official), Indonesian, English

note: there are about 16 indigenous languages; Tetum, Galole, Mambae, and Kemak are spoken by significant numbers of people
Tokelau Tokelauan (a Polynesian language), English
Tonga Tongan, English
Trinidad and Tobago English (official), Caribbean Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), French, Spanish, Chinese
Turks and Caicos Islands English (official)
Tuvalu Tuvaluan, English, Samoan, Kiribati (on the island of Nui)
Uganda English (official national language, taught in grade schools, used in courts of law and by most newspapers and some radio broadcasts), Ganda or Luganda (most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages, preferred for native language publications in the capital and may be taught in school), other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Swahili, Arabic
United Arab Emirates Arabic (official), Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu
United Kingdom English, Welsh (about 26% of the population of Wales), Scottish form of Gaelic (about 60,000 in Scotland)
United States English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7% (2000 census)

note: Hawaiian is an official language in the state of Hawaii
Vanuatu local languages (more than 100) 72.6%, pidgin (known as Bislama or Bichelama) 23.1%, English 1.9%, French 1.4%, other 0.3%, unspecified 0.7% (1999 Census)
Vietnam Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)
Virgin Islands English 74.7%, Spanish or Spanish Creole 16.8%, French or French Creole 6.6%, other 1.9% (2000 census)
West Bank Arabic, Hebrew (spoken by Israeli settlers and many Palestinians), English (widely understood)
World Mandarin Chinese 13.22%, Spanish 4.88%, English 4.68%, Arabic 3.12%, Hindi 2.74%, Portuguese 2.69%, Bengali 2.59%, Russian 2.2%, Japanese 1.85%, Standard German 1.44%, French 1.2% (2005 est.)

note: percents are for "first language" speakers only
Zambia English (official), major vernaculars - Bemba, Kaonda, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja, Tonga, and about 70 other indigenous languages
Zimbabwe English (official), Shona, Sindebele (the language of the Ndebele, sometimes called Ndebele), numerous but minor tribal dialects

Source: CIA – The World Factbook