There are dozens of English speaking countries in the world. That said, not everyone agrees on what qualifies as an English speaking country and what does not. For example, does a country need to make English the official language, or do the majority of people in the country need to speak English? Or both?
Truthfully, there’s no definitive answer. However, the general consensus is that countries in which English is the native language for the majority of citizens are considered “English speaking countries.” Why is this the case? Because English is spoken all around the world; it is the international language of business. If we were to include all of the countries in which people speak English on our list, we would have to count every country in the world!
So, without complicating the matter any further, let’s take a look at the ultimate list of English speaking countries!
How many English speaking countries are there?
The answer to this question will depend on who you ask. By the strictest standards, there are just four countries where English is the only official language:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States
However, due in large part to the colonization of various countries by the British Empire, the English language spread across the globe starting sometime in the 16th century. Over the following centuries, English spread to Africa, Central and South America, the Middle East, Asia, Polynesia, and beyond. As a result, there are dozens of countries that have designated English as one of their official languages. To be more precise, there are exactly 23 countries where English is the primary language and recognized as one of the official languages of the country:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis
- Papua New Guinea
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- Trinidad and Tobago
Countries in which English is not the primary language
Additionally, there are many countries where English is widely spoken and — in some cases — an official language of commerce, education, or government — but still not the primary language of the country. In other words, it is not the main language that the majority of people speak on a daily basis. There are 48 countries that fall within this category:
- Marshall Islands
- Solomon Islands
- South Sudan
- Sri Lanka
- United Arab Emirates
Therefore, one can say that there are a total of 75 English speaking countries in the world. While some may argue about the criteria, you could go to any of the countries listed above and speak English with confidence. On the other hand, if you visit a country that is not on this list, you may struggle to find people who speak English.
It’s also important to remember that every country has its own dialect, accent, and euphemism. In the United States alone, there are dozens of different American accents and regional ways of speaking. The same is true of many other countries, especially those that adopted English as a result of colonization. Many countries blend English with other native languages, producing completely unique terms and colloquialisms. For example, people in Singapore — a small country that is home to many different cultures and languages — use the word “blur” to refer to someone who is feeling confused or not paying attention. Alternatively, in American English (and most other forms of English), “blur” refers to something that cannot be seen clearly.
English Speaking Countries in Europe
While the list above may constitute all of the “official” English speaking countries, there are still many countries and territories in which English is an important and commonly-spoken language. This is especially true in the European Union (EU), which has 24 official languages, but just three primary or “procedural” languages: English, French, and German. Of the roughly 450 million people who live in the EU, there are approximately 370 million English speakers. This means that if you walk up to a random person in the EU, there’s about an 80% chance that they will speak English!
So, even though these countries don’t recognize English as an official language — with the exceptions of Ireland and Malta — English is still widely-spoken amongst the 27 members of the EU:
- Czech Republic
While these countries may not consider English as a primary language, you’ll often see the language taught in schools, used in commerce, and spoken in governmental settings.
English Speaking Territories
Up to this point, we’ve only addressed locales that are officially recognized as “countries.” However, there are still many territories and administrative regions in which English is common. In fact, there are exactly 27 non-sovereign territories in which English is the primary language, an official language, or both:
- Akrotiri and Dhekelia
- American Samoa
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Cook Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Hong Kong
- Isle of Man
- Norfolk Island
- Northern Mariana Islands
- Pitcairn Islands
- Puerto Rico
- Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha
- Sint Maarten
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- U.S. Virgin Islands
Approximately 1.5 billion people speak English — that’s roughly 20% of the world population! While there are English speakers in virtually every country or territory in the world, there are only a select number of places that we can call “English speaking countries.” Nonetheless, English remains the most common language in the world, so even if you plan to travel to a non-English speaking country, you’re bound to find someone who can practice speaking English with you!
As always, for all things English conversation, grammar, or job-related, visit Magoosh Speaking today!