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English - Our Number One World Language

Multilingual welcome sign. Photo.


Find out where the six official languages of the UN are spoken: Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish and Arabic.

Find out how many native speakers there are as well as the total number of speakers for each of the languages. Numbers may vary to some extent. This site is a good starting point: Wikipedia's article on World Language


Does English in your opinion play a more important role as a world language than the others? Make a list of argument to build your case. Then discuss in class or in a group whether English is world language number one or not. In this discussion you should consider how the languages are used and by whom, not just the numbers themselves.

Make a list of situations in life in which you speak or write English or consume English media content. This may vary from listening to a song, to asking for information in New York, to applying for a job. Having made the list, sit together in pairs and discuss the importance of learning English. Try to agree on the importance of English using a scale from 1 to 6 - in which 6 is very important and 1 is not important.

Compare results in class and work out an average grading on the importance of English.

There may be great variations from group to group. Why do you think our opinions vary on this?

Find out

There are many Latin and Greek expressions in English. Find out what the abbreviations below actually mean.

  1. A.C.
  2. A.D.
  3. ad inf., ad infin.
  4. A.M.
  5. ca., cir., circ.
  6. cf.
  7. e.g.
  8. etc.
  9. id.
  10. i.e.
  11. in loc.
  12. M.D.
  13. N.B.
  14. No.
  15. per an.
  16. per cent.
  17. Ph. D.
  18. P.M.
  19. P.S.
  20. R.I.P.
  21. vox pop.
  22. vs.
  23. v.s.
  1. A.C. (ante Christum)
    before Christ
  2. A.D. (anno domini)
    in the year of the Lord
  3. ad inf., ad infin. (ad infinitum)
    to infinity
  4. A.M. (ante meridiem)
    before midday
  5. ca., cir., circ. (circa)
  6. cf. (confer)
  7. e.g. (exempli gratia)
    for [the sake of an] example
  8. etc. (et cetera)
    and the rest, and so forth
  9. id. (idem)
    the same
  10. i.e. (id est)
    that is
  11. in loc. (in loco)
    in the place
  12. M.D. (Medicinae Doctor)
    Doctor of Medicine
  13. N.B. (Nota bene)
    Note well
  14. no. (numero)
    by number
  15. per an. (per annum)
    by the year
  16. per cent. (per centum)
    per hundred
  17. Ph. D. (Philosophiae Doctor)
    Doctor of Philosophy
  18. P.M. (post meridiem)
    after midday
  19. P.S. (post scriptum)
    written after
  20. R.I.P. (Requiescat in pace)
    May he rest in peace
  21. vox pop. (vox populi)
    voice of the people
  22. vs. (versus)
  23. v.s. (vide super)
    see above


Make a survey based on the following: Where and when have I been exposed to English the last 24 hours? Make a form that you hand out to at least 5 students in class.
Have you parents fill out the survey, too. Are there any differences between your fellow students and your parents? Discuss any differences in pairs.


  1. Write a story about a situation where you have to master English to make yourself understood. You may be stranded in a big city somewhere or find yourself talking to someone on the internet. Add some misunderstandings or challenges to give the story direction and momentum.

    If you are lost for ideas, search for misunderstanding, language and travel on the internet for inspiration. Make sure you do not copy a text or event, just use it for inspiration.
  2. Discuss the following statement provided by a Norwegian student:
    Why don't we just use English in Norway? Who needs to learn Norwegian? After all English is all that matters, really. That would really save us a lot of extra work. Everyone understands English anyway.

    Writing this essay you should consider the many roles of language in terms of cultural identifier and the importance of a national identity as well as the more practical sides to communicating.
  3. Discuss whether the widespread use of internet strengthens the role of English as a world language or not. (Suggested length: 300 – 500 words)
  4. Due to the increase of communication across borders and the general trend towards globalization some fear that English will replace many local languages. What do you think? Will people in the future be bilingual or will many native tongues disappear? (Suggested length: 300 – 500 words)
CC BY-SAWritten by: Knut Inge Skifjeld.
Last revised date 10/04/2018

Learning content

English as a world language