Hello lovely students! The United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa, Ireland, Canada, Australia and last but not least, New Zealand. What do all of these beautiful countries have in common?
Well, oddly enough, most people think of them as the only countries where English is an official language. But what if I were to tell you they were not and that three of those countries listed do not have English as an official language?
Is the suspense killing you? Read on for more.
English is not an official language in…
1) The United States
Yup, you read that correctly. Despite being the accent that both native English speakers and English learners are used to (thanks to Hollywood and Netflix), the USA does not recognise English as being an official language.
Because the USA is all about protecting linguistic diversity. Look at the luscious state of Hawaii for instance. Hawaiian is a widely spoken language there and is a co-official language with English. Or Alaska, where indigenous languages are official too.
Of the 50 states of America, 30 recognise English as the official language. States such as New York state and Texas are not in the 30 listed. Amazing right?
Of course, Americans use English in their daily lives and it’s been widely accepted that English be used in meetings, the workplace and for official documents. The USA, after all, is the largest English-speaking country in the world. Approximately 239 million people speak English there.
It must also be noted that all of the US territories have official languages. Puerto Rico has Spanish and English whilst the British Virgin Islands are the only US territory with just English as their official language.
Whilst Australia, like the US, uses English as their de facto official language, it is in fact not. The majority of the population (92%) speak the language.
3) New Zealand
Similarly to its close cousin, Australia, New Zealand uses English in its parliament but it does not recognise it as being official. In 2018, New Zealand politician, Clayton Mitchell pushed for the language to be legally recognised. However, the bill was rejected as many politicians argued that it was common sense and that legislation wasn’t needed to verify English’s status as an official language.
4) The United Kingdom
This one might come as a shock to many. Yes, English is not an officially recognized language in the UK. There is no law declaring this, though it is used by most people on the island. Other native languages in the UK are: Irish, Gaelic, Cornish, Manx, Ulster Scots, Welsh, sign languages and Shelta.
One South American country has English as their official language
Guyana is the only South American country where English is one of the official languages. The country, which became independent from Britain in 1966, also uses another language named Guyanese Creole, which is the primary language there.
What countries have English as an official language?
English is an official language for not 10, not 20 but 60 countries around the world. Of the countries in Europe, Malta and Ireland are the only two. The British overseas territory of Gibraltar should also be included as well as the special administrative region of Hong Kong.
A lot of these countries have co-official languages such as India, which has Hindi and English listed as its official languages.
Look at the map below to see what countries have English as an official language
Did you see any on there that surprised you? Let us know in the comments below.
So why English?
That’s a good question, with perhaps a very clear answer. Many linguists and historians believe that it is because of the British Empire. English spread throughout the years and now it has become the most widely spoken language in the world.
Only Mandarin and Spanish have a higher percentage of native speakers, but if you include English as a second language speakers, the number of people who speak English is a lot higher.
It comes as no surprise then, that nowadays modern English is used as the lingua franca in the business and technology world. It is used in international discourse and for international organisations to help facilitate communication.
It is used, along with French and German, for negotiations in the European Union. It is one of the six languages in the United Nations. It is also the main language of the Commonwealth.
Latin is widely considered the first language that became a Lingua Franca.
There is little information on what the next lingua franca will be if there will be one at all. Many countries use the English language as their common language for daily life, especially for certain contexts such as business. The truth is this: English can be spoken in any country.
Is that everything?
Absolutely not! To find out more about wonderful accents from around the world, click on this video to go to my youtube channel English with Lucy.