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Which Countries Have the Most English Speakers?
840 million people speak English but where do they all live? Read on to find out which countries have the most English speakers and the highest English proficiency.
Which Countries Have the Most English Speakers?
Published On - February 27, 2017
Richard Brooks Language Blog
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840 million people speak English
Around 840 million people speak English around the world, according to Ethnologue. (335 million people speak it as a first language, and 505 million speak it as a second language.) That’s a lot of people, but where do they all live? Read on to find out which countries have the most English speakers and the highest English proficiency.
United States: 268M
No surprise here: Those arrogant former colonists may not speak the Queen’s English correctly, but they do have the world’ s largest English-speaking country. Approximately 225 million Americans speak English as a first language, while 43 million speak it as a second language.
India is next on the list, with 125 million English speakers. But only 226, 449 of those speak it as a first language. For the rest, it’s a second language.
However, as BBC reporter Zareer Masani noted in a 2012 article, the patchwork state of English education means that many Indians speak “not so much English as Hinglish, or what my parents’ generation called Babu English – the language of clerks.”
Surprised? English is one of Pakistan’s official languages, along with Urdu. Although virtually nobody in Pakistan speaks English as a first language, around 49% of the population do speak it as a second language.
The Philippines: 90M
The Philippines has two official languages: Filipino and English. Only around 37,000 Filipinos speak it as a first language. However, a little over 92% of the population can speak it as a second language.
English is the official language of Nigeria, with somewhere between 79M and 100M speakers.
A growing economy with a vibrant literary and entertainment scene
Nigeria is also home to world-renowned authors who write in English. You may have heard of Chinua Achebe, the Man Booker-prize winning author of Things Fall Apart who died in 2013, or Nigerian poet and Nobel Prize-winning playwright Wole Soyinka. But there’s also Chris Abani, who was imprisoned twice as a teenager after publishing books the government at the time considered suspect. And there’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a novelist, feminist writer, and short story author. Meanwhile, Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma’s novel The Fishermen won several awards and is being translated into 15 languages.
Nigeria is also the largest economy in Africa, and it’s expected to have the highest GDP growth in the world between now and 2050. Meanwhile, the Nigerian film industry is the third-most-valuable in the world.
As an aside, ever wonder why so many well-known email scams originally came from Nigeria, as opposed to another country? There are a lot of reasons, but the relatively high percentage of English speakers is probably one of them. Around 53% of the population in Nigeria can speak English, which means that a small percentage of those people (by no means representative of all Nigerians) can use their English skills to claim royal descent and a big fat inheritance. With a hefty pay-out for you, dear blessed one, if only you’ll kindly wire them the transfer fee.
Internet fraud isn’t limited to Nigeria
Most Nigerians despise scammers and deplore the damage they’ve done to the country’s reputation. However, every country has a few bad apples, and in Nigeria, some of those bad apples used their English skills to become famous for a specific type of email scam called “advance fee fraud.” Other countries have their own specialities, and when it comes to Internet fraud as a whole, most of it actually comes from countries other than Nigeria, and continents other than Africa. For example, Russians are known for hacking restaurants and stealing customer’s data, and Estonia is a hotbed of clickbait fraud.
Also, these days, that “Nigerian Prince” offering to share his wealth via email could just as easily be an old white guy from Louisiana.
The United Kingdom: 59.6M
It’s about time, right? 98% of people in the UK speak English. But the UK’s comparatively small size and small population mean that larger countries like Nigeria and the Philippines actually have more English speakers.
Countries With the Highest English Proficiency
Obviously, numbers don’t tell the whole story here. Which countries have the highest English proficiency – the highest percentage of people who can speak English well? To answer this question, let’s take a look at results from EF’s English Proficiency Index (EPI). EF is a company that administers English exams to companies. (Not coincidentally, they also promote the idea that English should be the world’s “common language” for business. And there are some questions about what constitutes “good” English- one criticism of the EF is that they promote US/Canadian/UK varieties of English while stigmatizing the natural evolution of the English language in other countries.)
Excluding English-speaking countries like the US and the UK, here are the 5 countries where professionals are most proficient in English, according to EF:
List of countries by English
List of countries by English-speaking population
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Percentage of English speakers[a] by country and dependency as of 2014.
90–100% 60–90% 40–60% 20–40% 0.1–20%
No data (Antarctica, Northern Cyprus, Cabo Verde, New Caledonia, and North Korea)^ Includes those "as a second language" speakers
The following is a list of English-speaking population by country, including information on both native speakers and second-language speakers.
1 List 2 See also 3 Notes 4 References
This list may be sorted by column by clicking on the column header.
Some numbers have been calculated by Wikipedia editors by mixing data from different sources; figures not attributed to sources and given with a date should be treated with caution.
Also note that in most sources, the results shown are of people who say that they can speak English, while that was not verified; which means the actual number of English speakers could be higher or lower (because of certain people who over- or underestimate their English skills).
Country Eligible population Total English speakers As first language As an additional language Notes
No. % No. % No. %
United States 331,002,651 (2020) 316,107,532 (2020) 95.5 258,513,070 (2020) 78.10 57,594,462 17.4 Figures are from the 2011–2015 American Community Survey 5-year estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau for persons age 5 and older. Total English speakers are those who either spoke English at home (i.e. as first language), or reported speaking another language at home but could speak English "very well" or "well" (i.e. as an additional language).
India 1,368,737,436 (2011) 194,086,968 (2012) 14.18 (2012) 821,245 0.06 166,438,472 12.16 2001 Census figures for population and first, second, and third languages. English as a first language is only spoken by 821,245 people, as a second language by 105,455,385, and as a third language by 60,983,087.
Pakistan 208,800,150 (2020) 102,312,073 (2020) 49 302,760 0.145 18,792,013 9 Official language and spoken amongst a wide proportion of the Pakistani Population – 49% as a second language (other estimates).
Nigeria 206,200,000 (2020) 178,198,040 (2020) 86.42 37,157,240 18.02 141,040,800 68.4 English is the most widespread language in the country due to the many different languages spoken. English is the first or second language for most citizens. Note this includes speakers of an English creole.
Philippines 110,000,000 64,025,890 58.2 36,935 0.04 63,988,955 63.72 Total population: Census 2010. Proportion of total speakers: Census 2000, text above Figure 7. 63.71% of the then 66.7 million people aged 5 years or more could speak English. Proportion of native speakers: Census 1995, as quoted by Andrew Gonzalez in "The Language Planning Situation in the Philippines", , 19 (5&6), 487–525, p. 492: .04% of the then 68.4 million people were native speakers of English. (1998). "Six out of 10 people aged 5 and over can speak English (63.71%)."
United Kingdom 64,000,000 62,912,000 98.3 59,072,000 92.3 3,840,000 6 Source: Data from the 2011 census for England and Wales. Additional English speaker figures are for usual residents aged 3 years and over with a main language other than English who can speak English "very well" or "well".
Germany 80,600,000 45,400,000 56 392,000 0.47 45,100,000 56 Native speakers: Mikrozensus 2020, Statistisches Bundesamt.
Non-native speakers: Eurobarometer report 2012
Does not include foreign military personnel based in Germany.
Canada 37,138,500 30,480,750 83.06 20,193,335 54.37 10,287,415 28.69 Source: . The 2016 count reported that 23,757,525 people were able to conduct a conversation in English only, while 6,216,065 were able to converse in both English and French. The census also asked for the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the individual: 52% or 19,460,850 reported English as their only mother tongue, 165,320 reported both English and French as mother tongues, 533,265 reported English and a non-official language as mother tongues, and 33,900 reported English, French and a non-official language as mother tongues. The data also show that 26,007,500 Canadians report English as their first official language spoken.
France 65,350,000 23,000,000 39 23,000,000 39 Source: Eurobarometer report 2012
Australia 23,401,892 21,715,910 92.80 17,020,421 72.74 4,695,489 20.06 Source: 2016 Census. The 2016 census data is subject to multiple interpretations. The data noted that 17,020,421 persons out of 23,401,892 total only spoke English, and a further 4,695,489 spoke English either "Very Well", "Well" or "Not Well". A further 193,036 person were listed as speaking English "Not At All". However, 1,492,941 persons provided incomplete information; 1,440,493 provided no language or proficiency details and 52,448 gave no information on proficiency.
Most English Speaking Countries
Most English Speaking Countries - Today, English has a prestigious status across the world and it is the third most spoken language. In this article, know the top 10 English-speaking countries in the world.
4.4/5 - (38 votes) 4.4/5 - (38 votes)
Map of World depicting top 10 English speaking countries
Most English Speaking Countries
The evolution of the English language dates back to the 5th and 7th century AD when Anglo-Saxon settlers brought it to Britain. Today, English has a prestigious status across the world. However, in the past, it was considered a bourgeoisie language or the language of the middle class.
At present, English is the third most spoken language after Chinese and Spanish, at first and second rank, respectively. English speakers are found across the seven continents. Being an English speaker facilitates better opportunities of learning and earning because of its wide acceptance. Today, even the non-English speaking nations are adopting the language to meet the global standard for communicating and overcoming the language barrier.
Largest English Speaking Countries:Rank Country Number of English speakers Percentage of English speakers
1 United States 283,160,411 95.46
2 India 125,344,737 12.18
3 Pakistan 108,036,049 57
4 Nigeria 79,000,000 53.34
5 Philippines 64,025,890 63.73
6 United Kingdom 59,600,000 97.74
7 Germany 45,400,000 56
8 Bangladesh 30,108,031 18
9 Canada 29,748,265 80.10
10 Egypt 28,101,325 35Note: Data collected from various sources.Related Links:
Levels of English Proficiency around the world
Countries where Spanish is official
Which Uralic Languages have the Most Native Speakers?
What is Queen’s English?Related Maps: