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English as a Global Language

What do you remember about English as a global langauge? Try the quiz below and find out.
  1. Which is the world’s most widely spoken language?


    English. One fifth of the world’s population can speak some English. However, Chinese Mandarin is spoken by about 837 million people.

  2. How many people speak English as a first language (mother tongue) worldwide?


    More than 400 million people.

  3. In which countries is English used as a mother tongue?


    These are the most important countries: The USA, Australia, the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada (but remember that a minority here speak French).

    You’ll find the most recent numbers of English speakers if you google the International statistics site Nation Master (If you find the numbers puzzling when comparing with the population numbers, you should remember that even if the USA has passed 320 million, it does not mean that everyone speaks English).

    A mother tongue is the first language you learn as a child. English is a first language in countries where English was spoken originally (the UK) or in countries that have been former British colonies and that have been populated with lots of people of British descent. These countries make the first circle. More than 400 million people worldwide speak English as a mother tongue.

  4. How many people speak English as a second language or official language?


    Around 375 million people use English as a second language and an official language, meaning that English is the language used in documents and in business.

  5. In which countries is English used as a second language?


    In former British or American colonies like: India, the Philippines, Barbados, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Botswana.

    A second language is an official language that is used in business life and in all important written documents. The countries that use English in this way have either been former British or American colonies.

  6. How many people across the world use English as a third language, or a foreign language (EFL)?


    More than 750 million people (British Council’s estimate). This number is constantly increasing.

  7. How many variants of English do we have?


    Impossible to say, new variants are constantly popping up. A few examples are Japlish (English in Japan), Singlish (English in Singapore) and Hindlish (English spoken in India).

  8. Are these variants of English accepted?


    It depends who you ask. The variants are very different from Standard English and definitely different from RP.

  9. What is meant by the abbreviation RP?


    The abbreviation means Received Pronunciation. It is the English spoken in England by prominent persons, e.g. the Queen. That is why it is often referred to as the Queen’s English.

  10. Is English used as a second or third language in Norway?


    English is used as a third language in Norway.

    More than 750 million people worldwide use English as a third or foreign language (EFL), Norway is an example of a country where English is used as a third or EFL language.

  11. In which fields of work is English dominant?


    Within science, diplomacy, international tourism, aviation, the oil industry and computing.

  12. How many of the texts published on the Internet are in English and how many e-mails are written in English?


    It is estimated that about 80% are in English.

  13. It is often maintained that English is used as a lingua franca? What does that mean?


    A lingua franca is a language that is used as a means of communication between people who are not familiar with each other’s native language.

  14. If people cannot communicate by using a common language, they tend to use body language. What are the disadvantages of using body language?


    Body language is understood in different ways according to cultural concepts. Without knowing it, we might insult people with another cultural background by e.g. pointing, shaking hands and smiling.

CC BY-SAWritten by: Eli M. Huseby.
Last revised date 10/04/2018

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English as a world language