What are the main English speaking countries?

English is the most spoken language in the world. But who speaks English exactly? Lingoda breaks it down for you.

Learn About All The English Speaking Countries

The English language has approximately 400 million native speakers worldwide, trailing only Mandarin and Spanish. However, it is also the single most popular second language. As a result, when native and non-native English speakers are combined, it is recognized as the single most widely-spoken global language.

In fact, English is recognized as an official language in a total of 67 different countries, as well as 27 non-sovereign entities. Moreover, it is a major business language, as well as the official language of a number of the world’s most important institutions, including the United Nations, NATO and the European Union.

What Are The Main English Speaking Countries?

English is perhaps most commonly associated with the United States and the United Kingdom; the two largest English speaking countries. It is believed that there are around 230 million native speakers in the United States, making it the largest English-speaking country, while the United Kingdom has approximately 60 million native speakers.

Despite having two different official languages, Canada has the third largest English-speaking population, with somewhere in the region of 20 million native speakers, while Australia is next in the list, with around 17 million.

Some of the other notable countries around the world where English is the primary language include the Republic of Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand. Combined, these three countries are believed to be home to around 13 million people who speak English as their first language.

Overview of English Speaking Countries

Below, we provide a breakdown of some of the most significant countries that have English as either a de jure or a de facto official language. The countries have been sorted based on their geographical location. An official language is defined as a language used by the citizens of that country during interactions with their government. It should be noted that some of the countries listed have more than one official language and, therefore, English may not necessarily be their most common native language.

North America:






How English Spread Around the World

The English language originated in Britain and the ever-expanding British Empire spread Modern English around the world during the 18th and 19th centuries. This is why many of the countries where English is an official language were former British colonies, including Canada, Australia, South Africa and the United States. English is also widely spoken in India and in parts of Africa. Although Hindi is the most widely-spoken language in India today, English remains an official language in the country and is often used in university education, and within the field of politics. Officially, just 12% of Indian people speak English, with many only speaking it as a second language. Nevertheless, the country has an extremely dense population, meaning that this 12% cross-section of society exceeds 100 million people. As a result, India has one of the largest English-speaking populations on the planet. Throughout the 20th century, the United States emerged as a major political superpower, especially in the years after World War II. Its influence, combined with Hollywood films and the journalistic work of the British Broadcasting Corporation, are credited with the continued spread of the language throughout the century.

English remains the only official language of the Commonwealth of Nations and is also the recognised official language of several non-sovereign entities, including Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and Bermuda.

By the turn of the new millennium, English was the most widely-spoken and written language that has ever existed.