Estimated native speakers: 350–400 million
Estimated total speakers: 1-1.4 billion
Official/de facto official language in: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Botswana, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Canada, the Cayman Islands, Cameroon, Dominica, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Gibraltar, Grenada, Guam, Guernsey, Guyana, India, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jamaica, Jersey, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malta, Mauritius, Montserrat, Namibia, Nigeria, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Pitcairn Islands, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States*, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Language family: Indo-European – West Germanic
A brief history:
As you dive into your English studies, you’ll learn that the world’s lingua franca is a mishmash of old Germanic, Latin and French, with plenty of other influences thrown in. After the Romans left Britain, the remaining Celts had grown somewhat used to having protection from the empire’s armies. When the Picts and Scots started to attack them, the Celts turned to Germanic tribes (including the Angles and the Saxons) for help. The tribes came...and didn’t leave! The modern English language developed from that spoken by the invaders, who were soon joined by Vikings, bringing Scandinavian influences.
In 1066, the Normans successfully invaded England, bringing their version of French with them. For the next 200 years, England’s aristocracy spoke French...but the commoners kept on speaking English. This changed when the Normans lost Normandy in the early 13th century and being English became a point of pride for everyone. A large amount of French words entered English at this point and the grammar system of today started to develop as the two very different systems merged together.
For the next 600 years, English soaked up words from a huge range of languages, partly as a result of the Renaissance bringing up new ideas that couldn’t be expressed in English (but which the Romans had perfectly good words for) and partly as a result of the English Empire, which was the largest in history at the start of the 20th century. Nowadays, English is the world’s most widely spoken language and is responsible for the large majority of new words coined – both great reasons to study English!