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Spread of the English Language

Map No.


English has grown and spread to become the most widely-used language in the world. There are around 350 million first-language speakers in nearly one hundred territories, and there are probably a similar number of people for whom it is a second language. This spread, starting from Britain, has happened over the course of 400 years, and English has become the main language of the United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In other countries it has become the language used in government, education, and international communications.

English is a member of the West Germanic family of languages.


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Technical Notes

Territory size shows the proportion of all people who speak English as a first language that live in that territory. The map removes the countries where English is dominant. This map therefore only shows 2.6% of all speakers of English. The territories omitted are Australia, Canada, United States, Ireland, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Barbados and Trinidad & Toba.

The maps in the 2005 language data series are made from data on the number of people speaking a language as their first-language, that is the language they would use at home.

Data sources
This map uses data several sources, the main one being Ethnologue (15th Edition, 2005). Estimating the number of speakers of a language is fraught with difficulty on several levels (last accessed January 2009). We aim to map as complete data as possible and therefore estimate data for missing values. The language numbers we use and publish are rough estimates, and should not be taken as definitive. In some cases, missing data for very small territories is not used in the cartogram and that area is therefore omitted in the map.

Further notes on the data, as well as all modifications to the original data source are noted in our data sheets.

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