The English-speaking world

English is the world’s most spoken language, but most English speakers are not native speakers. In fact, of the approximately 1.5 billion English speakers, less than 400 million are native speakers. English is a global lingua franca and the standard language in a variety of fields such as computer coding, education, and international business.

Native speakers

English is an official language in 58 countries across the globe. 19 countries have a majority of native English speakers, the largest of these being the US (231 mil), the UK (60 mil), Canada (19 mil), Australia (at least 17 mil), New Zealand (4 mil) and South Africa (3 mill). All of these countries have their own distinct pronunciations, as well as differences in vocabulary and – to some extent – spelling.

Non-native speakers

Former British colonies, such as India and Hong Kong, have a large population of people who speak English as a second language, though the most proficient users of English as a second language come from countries that have never been British colonies; they are all in Northern Europe: the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. 

The wide variety of English across the globe leads to a great variety in the English language.

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Accents are the sound patterns of languages. They are characterized by the inflection, tone and choice of words you use when speaking. Sound patterns differ from language to language, but can also vary within the same one. There are multiple acknowledged accents of English, meaning that there are several ways to speak the language.

Native and foreign accents

A native accent is determined by your region, ethnicity or social group. While a person from New York speaks English differently from a person from London, they are both correct. It is neither right nor wrong to say tomato with the ‘a’ pronounced as the ‘a’ in baby, or as the ‘a’ in ‘father.’ 

A foreign accent reflects the way you speak your native language. When speaking a foreign language we tend to use the rules, structure and sounds of our native language.

We all speak in different accents

Regardless of whether we speak in a native or foreign accent, we speak languages based on how and where we live and learn the language. It is just as correct to speak with an Indian accent as an American accent. It is also fine to speak with a Norwegian accent, or a Jamaican accent.

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