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English Around the World

English is spoken in many smaller countries and communities all over the world. Many of the spoken dialects are called pidgin English. They do not have a formal written version and may vary a lot from Standard English.

Schoolgirls in uniforms. Photo.

The countries with the highest populations of native English speakers are, in descending order:

  1. United States (215 million)
  2. United Kingdom (61 million)
  3. Canada (18.2 million)
  4. Australia (15.5 million)
  5. Ireland (3.8 million)
  6. South Africa (3.7 million)
  7. New Zealand (3.0-3.7 million)
Poster with English flag and text "We speack English". Foto.
We speack English

In addition to these nations, English is spoken in many smaller countries and communities all over the world. Many of the spoken dialects are called pidgin English. They do not have a formal written version and may vary a lot from Standard English.

As these pidgin variants over time develop a fixed pattern they may develop their own fixed spelling and grammar. Then they are often called Creole Englishes.

Both Creole and pidgin Englishes have emerged as a result of colonial expansion, slavery and international trade - all of which require a basic common language for communication.

Listen to Bill Bryson interview Loreto Todd, Professor at Leeds University, who has specialized in pidgin English:

Pidgin English, Bill Bryson (Journeys in English)

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Pidgin English, Bill Bryson (Journeys in English)

Pidgin English, Bill Bryson.

This week we are looking at how English has spread around the world and its effect on other peoples and cultures. How for example did this extraordinary form of English emerge in West Africa? [language sample] For the answer, I went to Leeds University to meet Loretto Todd, an authority on world Englishes. Unfortunately, I neglected to brush up on my pidgin. “Who’s there?” “Aha, Bill my brother, how are you?” “I’m very well, thank you. You must be Loretto Todd?” [Loretto asks Bill a question equivalent of: how are you?] “...very well, thank you”. [Loretto asks Bill a question equivalent of: where did you come from this morning?] “I came this morning from York”. [Loretto asks Bill a question equivalent of: where will you be going next?”] “Then from here I am going on to Leicester”. [Loretto asks another question, but Bill does not understand.] [Loretto asks if he is hungry] “Hungry real bad, yes”. “Chop sounds great”.
A pidgin is a rudimentary language that emerges when people from two different language groups come together. Usually for purposes of trade or commerce. When contact between those two groups is prolonged, the pidgin will sometimes evolve into a more formalised tongue known as a creole. To the uninitiated, there is a tendency to regard both pidgins and creoles as rather comical, sub-standard languages. In fact, as Loretto Todd makes clear, they are in their way, as sophisticated and expressive as any other language in the world. Sometimes more so.

Oral Activity

For variants within more formal Englishes you may study this site. Listen to at least ten words and compare how they are pronounced in a number of regions worldwide: www.soundcomparisons.com

Listen to some of the words and compare dialects. Do you have a favourite – if so which one? Practice saying a few phrases in your favorite English dialect. You may start with the one suggested below.

Suggestion: My brother bought a new car the other day. It is really fast. It is a lot better than mine!

English around the world

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English around the world

Other Varieties of English

Countries such as Jamaica and Nigeria also have millions of native speakers of dialect continua ranging from an English-based Creole to a more standard version of English. Of those nations where English is spoken as a second language, India has the most such speakers ('Indian English'). Combining native and non-native speakers, India now has more people who speak or understand English than any other country in the world (David Crystal). Following India is the People's Republic of China. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language)

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