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English (/ˈɪŋ(g)lɪʃ/) is a Germanic language. It is spoken as a native language in many communities, and used as a worldwide lingua franca in business and academia. Consequently, it is a language with considerable prestige, and is learnt by many English language learners.

There are many varieties of English, including, but not limited to, American English (AmE), Australian English (AuE), British English (BrE), Indian English, South African English, Canadian English, Chinese English and so on. This wide-ranging reality has led to most specialists now preferring to use the term the English languages or Englishes.

Number of speakers of English[edit]

See main article Number of speakers of English

For various reasons it is difficult to be exact about the total number of native speakers of English but estimates vary from three hundred and nine million to three hundred and forty-one million. This would rank English fourth in number of native speakers after Mandarin Chinese, Hindi/Urdu and Spanish.[1]

On the other hand, if one were to attempt to include the number of individuals who speak English as a second language then the number becomes something in the order of one thousand five hundred million people - a larger number than that of any other language. A 2012 article in English Today by Bolton and Graddol, quoting a China Daily article, states that around 400 million people in China, approximately a third of the population, are currently learning English.[2][3] A more precise figure, that of 390.16 million people who had learnt English i.e. studied it at school as a foreign language, is quoted by Wei and Su in the same issue.[4]

Additionally, English is used in international trade and industry to a greater extent than other languages. English is the only language for international air transport communications.

History of English[edit]

See main article History of the English languages

Notwithstanding its many varieties, English has a long and varied history which is, not unnaturally, bound up with the history of Britain, the British Isles and its peoples.

Modern English is the product of various Germanic invasions, the Norman conquest, the British Empire and much else.


English phonology:


English vocabulary:

High-frequency words tend to be predominantly of Germanic origin. There are also a large number of loan words from French and Latin. Loanwords from other languages are also prevalent.


English grammar:

English uses a Germanic system of grammar; Modern English grammar is simplified somewhat compared to Old English grammar or the grammars of related languages such as Dutch or German.