English as an official language

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This is a list of sovereign states and territories where English is an official language. That means it is a language used by their governments. In 2012, there were 88 states: 60 sovereign states and 28 non-sovereign states).

Most countries where English is a prominent or official language are former colonies of the British Empire. Notable exceptions include Rwanda, which was a former Belgian colony, and Eritrea, which was an Italian colony where the British Empire controlled it only in World War II and shortly after (1941–1952).

English is the sole official language of the Commonwealth of Nations and the Commonwealth Games. English is one of the official languages of the United Nations, the European Union and the International Olympic Committee. Although English isn't classified as an official language in the United States many states and regions within the U.S. do have English as an official language.

India's linguistic picture is complex. According to the Constitution of India, "Hindi in the Devanagari script" is the official language of the union;[1] and English the 'subsidiary official language';[2] however, English is mandated (must be used) for the authoritative texts of all federal laws and Supreme Court decisions and (with Hindi) is one of the two languages of the Indian Parliament. English is taught in schools, and the quality and effectiveness of the teaching is extremely varied.[3] English is used almost exclusively for higher education.

The linguistic makeup of Pakistan is also complex. While the national language is Urdu, English is an official language and used in business, government and law.[4]

Sovereign states[change | change source]

Countries where English is a de jure/official language
Country Region Population1
 Antigua and Barbuda[5] Caribbean 85,000
 Bahamas[5] Caribbean 331,000
 Barbados[6] Caribbean 294,000
 Belize [7] Central America / Caribbean 288,000
 Botswana [7] Africa 1,882,000
 Cameroon[5] Africa 18,549,000
 Canada[5] North America 33,531,000
 Dominica[5] Caribbean 73,000
 Eritrea[5] Africa 5,224,000
 Fiji[5] Oceania 827,900
 Gambia[5] Africa 1,709,000
 Ghana[5] Africa 23,478,000
 Grenada[5] Caribbean 106,000
 Guyana[8] South America / Caribbean 738,000
 India [7][9] Asia 1,247,540,000
 Ireland[10] Europe 4,581,269
 Jamaica[11] Caribbean 2,714,000
 Kenya[5] Africa 37,538,000
 Kiribati[5] Oceania 95,000
 Lesotho[5] Africa 2,008,000
 Liberia[5] Africa 3,750,000
 Malawi[12] Africa 13,925,000
 Malta[5] Europe 412,600
 Marshall Islands[5] Oceania 59,000
 Mauritius[5] Africa / Indian Ocean 1,262,000
 Federated States of Micronesia[5] Oceania 111,000
 Namibia[5] Africa 2,074,000
 Nauru[13] Oceania 10,000
 New Zealand[5] Oceania 4,294,350
 Nigeria[5][14] Africa 148,093,000
 Pakistan[5] Asia 165,449,000
 Palau [7] Oceania 20,000
 Papua New Guinea[15][16] Oceania 6,331,000
 Philippines[17][5] Asia 90,457,200
 Rwanda[5] Africa 9,725,000
 Saint Kitts and Nevis[18] Caribbean 50,000
 Saint Lucia[5] Caribbean 165,000
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines[19] Caribbean 120,000
 Samoa[20] Oceania 188,359
 Seychelles[5] Africa / Indian Ocean 87,000
 Sierra Leone[5] Africa 5,866,000
 Singapore[21] Asia 5,312,400[22]
 Solomon Islands[5] Oceania 506,992
 South Africa[23] Africa 47,850,700
 South Sudan[24] Africa 8,260,490
 Sudan[5] Africa 31,894,000
 Swaziland[5] Africa 1,141,000
 Tanzania[5] Africa 40,454,000
 Tonga[25] Oceania 100,000
 Trinidad and Tobago[5] Caribbean 1,333,000
 Tuvalu[7] Oceania 11,000
 Uganda[5] Africa 30,884,000
 Vanuatu[26] Oceania 226,000
 Zambia[5] Africa 11,922,000
 Zimbabwe[5] Africa 13,349,000
Countries where English is the de facto language
Country Region Population1
 Australia[27] Australia / Oceania 22,930,576
 United Kingdom Europe 61,612,300
 United States North America 309,442,000

Non-sovereign entities[change | change source]

Entity Region Population1
 American Samoa11 Oceania 67,700
 Anguilla[5] Caribbean 13,000
 Bermuda9[5] North America 65,000
 British Virgin Islands[5] Caribbean 23,000
 Cayman Islands [7] Caribbean 47,000
 Christmas Island12[5] Australia 1,508
 Cocos (Keeling) Islands[5] Australia 596
 Cook Islands[5] Oceania 20,200
 Curaçao[28] Caribbean 150,563
 Falkland Islands South Atlantic 3,000
 Gibraltar[5] Europe 29,257
 Guam4 Oceania 173,000
 Guernsey10 Europe 61,811
 Hong Kong2[5] Asia 7,097,600
 Isle of Man8 Europe 80,058
 Jersey6[5] Europe 89,300
 Montserrat[7] Caribbean 5,900
 Niue[5] Oceania 1,600
 Norfolk Island[5] Australia 1,828
 Northern Mariana Islands7 Oceania 53,883
 Pitcairn Islands13[5] Oceania 50
 Puerto Rico3 Caribbean 3,991,000
 Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha[7] South Atlantic 5,660
 Sint Maarten[29] Caribbean 40,900
Colombia San Andrés y Providencia, Colombia [30] Caribbean 59,573
 Tokelau[7] Oceania 1,400
 Turks and Caicos Islands[5] Caribbean 26,000
 U.S. Virgin Islands5 Caribbean 111,000

Footnotes[change | change source]

^1 The population figures are based on the sources in List of countries by population, with information as of 23 January 2009 (UN estimates, et al.)
^2 Hong Kong is a former British Crown colony (1843–1981) and British Dependent Territory (1981–1997); it is currently a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (1997–present)
^3 Puerto Rico is, historically and culturally, connected to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean; Spanish is also an official language on the island. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated United States territory referred to as a "Commonwealth"
^4 Guam is an organized unincorporated territory of the United States
^5 The US Virgin Islands is an insular area of the United States
^6 Jersey is a British Crown dependency
^7 The Northern Mariana Islands is a commonwealth in political union with the United States
^8 Isle of Man is a British Crown dependency
^9 Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory
^10 Guernsey is a British Crown dependency
^11 American Samoa is an unincorporated U.S. territory
^12 Christmas Island is an external territory of Australia
^13 Pitcairn Islands is a British Overseas Territory

References[change | change source]

  1. "The Union: Official Language". National Informatics Centre (NIC). 2007. http://india.gov.in/knowindia/official_language.php. Retrieved June 24, 2007.
  2. "Notification No. 2/8/60-O.L. (Ministry of Home Affairs)". April 27, 1960. http://www.rajbhasha.gov.in/preseng.htm. Retrieved July 4, 2007.
  3. English language education in rural schools of India: the situation, the policy and the curriculum. British Council, Teaching English [1]
  4. CIA - The World Factbook
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 5.23 5.24 5.25 5.26 5.27 5.28 5.29 5.30 5.31 5.32 5.33 5.34 5.35 5.36 5.37 5.38 5.39 5.40 5.41 5.42 5.43 5.44 5.45 5.46 5.47 Official language; "Field Listing - Languages". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2098.html. Retrieved 2009-01-11..
  6. "Society". Government Information Service (Barbados). http://www.barbados.gov.bb/society.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 English usage; "Field Listing - Languages". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2098.html. Retrieved 2009-01-11..
  8. "National Profile". Government Information Agency (Guyana). http://www.gina.gov.gy/natprofile/gnprof.html. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  9. N. Krishnaswamy; Lalitha Krishnaswamy (6 January 2006). "3.14 English Becomes a Second Language". The story of English in India. Foundation Books. ISBN 978-81-7596-312-2. http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=mBpFLdcEG7IC&pg=PA103.
  10. BUNREACHT NA hÉIREANN
  11. The Constitution of Jamaica (section 20(6e) — implicit)
  12. Malawi Investment Promotion Agency (August 2005). "Opportunities for investment and Trade in Malawi – the Warm Heart of Africa". Government of Malawi. http://www.malawi.gov.mw/investments/INVESTOR%27S%20GUIDE%20TO%20MALAWI.doc. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  13. "Nauru". New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2008-12-03. http://www.mfat.govt.nz/Countries/Pacific/Nauru.php. Retrieved 2009-01-18. English and Nauruan are official.
  14. "Country profile: Nigeria". BBC News. April 30, 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/country_profiles/1064557.stm. Retrieved November 10, 2008.
  15. "General Information on Papua New Guinea". Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority. http://www.pngtourism.org.pg/png/export/sites/TPA/ForTheTraveller/Index.html. Retrieved 2009-01-18.[dead link]
  16. "Country profile: Papua New Guinea". BBC News. 2008-11-28. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1246074.stm.
  17. "Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, Article XIV". Chanrobles Law Library. 1987. http://www.chanrobles.com/article14language.htm. Retrieved October 27, 2007. (See Article XIV, Section 7)
  18. "Primary Schools". Government of St Christopher (St Kitts) and Nevis. http://www.gov.kn/content.asp?cuItem=609&mp=1. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  19. "St. Vincent and the Grenadines Profile". Agency for Public Information (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines). http://www.gov.vc/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13&Itemid=101. Retrieved 2011-06-18.
  20. "Legislations: List of Acts and Ordinances". The Parliament of Samoa. http://www.parliament.gov.ws/legislations.cfm?sel=con. Retrieved 2009-01-18.[dead link] Languages for official legislation are Samoan and English.
  21. Wong, Aline (2000-11-24). "Education in a Multicultural Setting - The Singapore Experience". Ministry of Education, Government of Singapore. http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/speeches/2000/sp24112000_print.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-18. "There are four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil."
  22. "Statistics Singapore - Latest Data - Population (Mid-Year Estimates)". Statistics Singapore. June 2012. http://www.singstat.gov.sg/stats/latestdata.html#12. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  23. "Constitution of the Republic of South Africa". Constitutional Court of South Africa. http://www.concourt.gov.za/site/constitution/english-web/ch1.html. Retrieved 2009-01-11.
  24. "The Constitution of Southern Sudan". Southern Sudan Civil Society Initiative. http://www.gurtong.net/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=lOqRv9hqgv8%3D&tabid=345. Retrieved 2011-07-09.
  25. Kingdom of Tonga (March 2008). "The United Nations / Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Council". http://www.pmo.gov.to/guide-to-gov-mainmenu-26/tonga-a-the-world-mainmenu-72/the-united-nations-mainmenu-126.html. Retrieved 2009-01-18.[dead link] English and Tongan are listed as official.
  26. "Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu". Government of the Republic of Vanuatu. 1980-83. http://www.vanuatugovernment.gov.vu/government/library/constitution.html. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  27. "Pluralist Nations: Pluralist Language Policies?". 1995 Global Cultural Diversity Conference Proceedings, Sydney. Department of Immigration and Citizenship. http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/multicultural/confer/04/speech18b.htm. Retrieved 11 January 2009."English has no de jure status but it is so entrenched as the common language that it is de facto the official language as well as the national language."
  28. "LANDSVERORDENING van de 28ste maart 2007 houdende vaststelling van de officiële talen (Landsverordening officiële talen)" (in Dutch). Government of the Netherlands. http://decentrale.regelgeving.overheid.nl/cvdr/XHTMLoutput/Actueel/Curaçao/144328.html. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  29. According to Art. 1 para 2. Constitution of Sint Maarten: "The official languages are Dutch and English"
  30. http://www.alcaldiabogota.gov.co/sisjur/normas/Norma1.jsp?i=2780