English Speaking Countries in Asia

A bilingual street sign in Singapore. Editorial credit: Simon Poon / Shutterstock.com.
A bilingual street sign in Singapore. Editorial credit: Simon Poon / Shutterstock.com.

English is the second most-spoken language in the world after the Chinese language. About 372 million natives and about a billion non-native speakers are conversant. Approximately 64% of native English speakers are in the United States, 16.6% in the United Kingdom, 5.3% in Canada, 4.7% in Australia, 1.3% in South Africa, 1.3% in Ireland, 1.3% in New Zealand, and the remaining 5.5% are spread across the world.

English in Asia

There are few native English speakers in Asia, but a large number of the population use English as a second or third language. India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, and Singapore all recognize English as an official language. India is the most populous state that uses English in an official capacity. The exact number of people who can speak English in Asia is hard to ascertain due to the large and diverse population, but it is estimated that there are 125 million in India, 94 million in Pakistan, and 90 million in the Philippines.

This is not to say that the rest of Asia cannot converse in English. Thousands of locals and immigrants in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Laos are conversant with English. India and Pakistan trace their English roots to the colonial period when British colonialists introduced the language and integrated it into the education system. The national language of Pakistan is Urdu but English is the official language meaning that government transactions are handled in English. Thousands of native English expats are found in Pakistani cities such as Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore. There are about 22 major languages and about 720 dialects in India. Both English and Hindi are official languages, and it is uncommon to come across Indians speaking fluent English anywhere in the country.

English Throughout the World

About 260 million people speak English as a native language in the Americas. A majority are in the United States (230 million) and Canada (20 million). About 15% of citizens in the European Union are native English speakers while another 38% can have a consistent conversation using the language. About 90% of native English speakers are in the United Kingdom and Ireland. There are approximately 6.5 million native English speakers and 700 million non-native English speakers in Africa. There are about a dozen African countries where English is an official language. They include Zimbabwe, Uganda, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Liberia, and South Africa. Most of these countries where English is spoken are former British colonies except for Rwanda and Eritrea that were colonized by the Italians. Sierra Leone and Liberia are the only countries in Africa where English is spoken as the primary language.

English Speaking Countries in Asia


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