Which Countries Have the Most English Speakers?

An estimated 840 million people speak English around the world. Known as the global business language, there are 335 million people on the planet who speak it as a first language and 505 million who speak it as a second language. It’s no wonder then that the demand to join an English Speaking Course is always high.

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Read on to find out where these speakers come from – some of these countries may surprise you.

#1  United States of America

The United States of America is the world’s largest English-speaking country. Approximately 225 million Americans speak English as a first language, while 43 million speak it as a second language. That’s a grand total of 268 million English speakers which makes the USA, a country with the largest number of English speaking population.

#2 India

India is next on the list, with 125 million English speakers. But only 226,449 of those speak it as a first language. For the rest, it’s a second language. However, as BBC reporter Zareer Masani noted in a 2012 article, the patchwork state of English education means that many Indians speak “not so much English as Hinglish’’, also known as Indian English which is a mix of English and Hindi, one of the official languages in India.

#3 Pakistan

Surprised? English is one of Pakistan’s official languages, along with Urdu. Although nobody in Pakistan really speaks English as a first language, the Urdu language is always the preferred choice, around 49% of the population do speak it as a second language.

That accounts for almost 94,321,604 English speakers.

#4 Philippines

The Philippines has two official languages: Filipino and English. Only around 37,000 Filipinos speak English as a first language. However, a little over 92% of the population can speak it as a second language. Out of the latest Filipino population, it is estimated that there are 90 million English speakers in the island nation.

#5 Nigeria

Ever wonder why so many sales emails came from Nigeria, as opposed to Kenya or Zimbabwe? There are a lot of reasons, but the relatively high percentage of English speakers is probably one of them. Around 53% of the population (79 million people) can speak English in Nigeria, and a small percentage has awesome native proficiency in the English language.

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#6 United Kingdom

It’s about time, right? We bet you didn’t expect to find the United Kingdom so far down this list! 98% of people in the UK speak English. But the UK’s comparatively small size and population mean that larger countries like Nigeria and the Philippines actually have more English speakers. The UK has 59.6 million speakers owing to its relatively small population and that’s what makes them 6th in this list.

(Bonus) Countries with the Highest English Proficiency

While quantity matters, quality also plays an essential role, especially when it comes to languages. The proficiency required to communicate and comprehend the language matters and the countries that boast the highest number of speakers may not necessarily reflect that. Not surprisingly, Europe has the strongest English proficiency of any region in the world, and even though the UK’s role as part of the EU is behind us (think Brexit), there will not be a massive change this early.

Using the English Proficiency Index (EPI), the proficiency of English speakers in various countries can be determined. Excluding English-speaking countries like the US and the UK (where the proficiency is naturally high), here are the top 5 countries with the highest proficiency in the English language as they well pronounce its hardest words.

#1 Netherlands

With 15 million English Speakers, about 90 percent of the entire population in the Netherlands speak English. It’s EPI score is 73.8, which is the highest of any country that was tested.

#2  Denmark

The Nordic countries are famous for their English speaking skills and the next four countries on this list are all from the Nordic region. First is Denmark with 4.8 million English Speakers,  about 91% of the population speaks English as a second language. It has a slight edge over the other three, with an EPI score of 72.91.

#3 Sweden

Sweden has 8.2 million English speakers and almost 90% of the population speaks English as a second language. The country has an EPI score of 71.7.

#4 Norway

There are about 4.5 million English speakers in Norway and 90% of Norwegians speak English as a second language. Their EPI score is 71.3.

#5 Finland

Finland has 3.8 million English speakers which make up about 70% of the entire population, which speaks English as a second language. It has an EPI score of 69.2.

#6  Philippines

The Philippines is the only country to rank in the top 6 for both the numbers of English speakers and English proficiency. It has 90 million English Speakers with an EPI score of 67.4.

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English Proficiency by Country 

South Africa
Population: 58+ million
English Proficiency: Very High

Population: 31+ million
English Proficiency: High

Population: 83+ million
English Proficiency: High

Population: 52+ million
English Proficiency: High

Population: 38+ million
English Proficiency: High

Population: 19+ million
English Proficiency: High

Population: 66+ million
English Proficiency: Moderate

Population: 46+ million
English Proficiency: Moderate

Population: 60+ million
English Proficiency: Moderate 

Population: 1.4+ billion
English Proficiency: Low

Population: 126+ million
English Proficiency: Low

Population: 214+ million
English Proficiency: Low 

Population: 50+ million
English Proficiency: Very Low

There you have it, the top 6 countries with the most number of English speakers and as a bonus, the top 6 countries with the highest proficiency in the English language. That’s not to say there aren’t any other English speaking countries on the list. They just haven’t made the top 6!

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