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World Languages

English in the world

Where is English spoken as an official language?

Look at the map below, and highlight the countries where you think English is the official language. What can you notice? What language(s) do you feel would be important to get by in?

World map

The following map shows countries that have English as their official language (shaded in blue).

Countries with English as their first language

On the following map, countries in which English is the first language of a large fraction of the population are shown in dark blue. The light blue (turquoise) shading shows countries where a substantial proportion of the population has adopted English as their main language.

Countries that have adopted English as a main language

Official language

Below is a list of ten countries. Note down what you think the official language is in these countries.

  1. Brazil
  2. India
  3. South Africa
  4. Switzerland
  5. Egypt
  6. Ukraine
  7. Philippines
  8. Andorra
  9. Chile
  10. Malaysia

Table 1 reveals the answers.

country

language

Brazil     

Portuguese

India     

Hindi

South Africa

Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swati, Tsongo, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu

Switzerland     

German, French, Italian and Romansh (descending from Vulgar Latin)

Egypt     

Arabic

Ukraine     

Ukrainian

Philippines     

Filipino, English

Andorra     

Catalan

Chile     

Spanish

Malaysia     

Malay

Table 1. Official languages of ten (arbitrarily chosen) countries

Most spoken languages in the world

The image below shows a list of the most spoken languages around the world. Try to put them in order of popularity and estimate the number of native speakers.

Most spoken languages in the world

Table 2 reveals the rank order.

rank

language

speakers (millions)

1

Chinese    

1,213

2

Spanish    

329

3

English    

328

4

Arabic    

221

5

Hindi    

182

6

Bengali    

181

7

Portuguese  

178

8

Russian    

144

9

Japanese    

122

10

German    

90.3

Table 2. Top ten most spoken languages in the world [Source: Lewis, 2009]

English words of international origin

The following list of words comes from what could be called ‘common languages’, as opposed to obscure ones. Think about the possible origins of each word, and note down what language you think they come from. In total you will there are five different languages.

  • alcohol
  • bonanza
  • cafeteria
  • casserole
  • hamburger
  • jungle
  • muesli
  • shampoo
  • tartare
  • tobacco

Table 3 reveals the origins.

word

origin

alcohol     

Arabic

bonanza     

Spanish

cafeteria     

Spanish

casserole     

French

hamburger     

German

jungle     

Hindi

muesli     

German

shampoo     

Hindi

tartare     

French

tobacco     

Arabic

Table 3. Some English words of international origin

References

Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: https://www.ethnologue.com/.

Acknowledgements

[Information last accessed: 27 July 2017]

This article is adapted from ‘Languages at Work’. An OpenLearn (http://www.open.edu/openlearn/) chunk reworked by permission of The Open University copyright © 2016 – made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence v4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/deed.en_GB. As such, it is also made available under the same licence agreement.