Thursday, August 16, 2007

English Language Teaching: Countries with English as the Official or First Language

The Question

On occasion, my opening question at an English Language Teaching (ELT) conference is, “How many countries have English as a first or official language?” To twist the screw just a bit more I add,

“You’ll all English teachers, so you should know where the language is spoken, right?”

They agree that they should and for the next few minutes set about fathoming the English as a first or official language list.

More squirming, a few shouted out queries and I let the pressure off.

“How many do you have on your list?”

Rarely does the number exceed ten or fifteen.

Take a moment; how many can YOU list?

The Response

“Would you like to see my list?” I ask.

You know what the response unanimously is.

“Do you think that is something that might be useful for an English teacher to know?”

A resounding “Yes!” always follows.

The List

In truth, at this writing there are at least thirty-five countries that have English as a first or official language!

Surprised? Most English teachers are. And my current list might not even be an all-inclusive one by now. At any rate, here is the current list:

- United States, Trinidad & Tobago, Belize

- Barbados, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands

- Guyana, British Virgin Islands, Australia

- Falkland Islands, England, Grenada

- St. Nevis / St. Kitts, Jamaica, India, Bermuda

- South Africa, Bahamas, New Zealand

- Cayman Islands, St. Vincent, Grenadines

- Samoa, St. Lucia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone

- Singapore, Liberia, Ghana, Ireland

- Hong Kong, Zimbabwe

To Do Suggestions

Why not check out the official country websites for these and other countries for some eye-opening information on the impact of English on their respective cultures? Many foreign country websites include news, local current events, audio, radio and streaming video as well. If you need even more information? Just “Google” the country name to get a trainload or two of related websites.

So what’s the point? Just that it’s helpful to provide practical aspects to learning English. World travel and commerce are just two of the many reasons to be cited for the practicality of English-language learning. The internet, e-mails, chats and forums all contribute to a preponderance of English-language use online.

A plethora of English teacher resource websites and a growing cadre of English language learner websites help contribute to the usefulness of knowledge of the English language.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. For more information on entering into or advancing in the fascinating field of ELT send for his no-cost pdf Ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know”, send an e-mail with "free ELT Ebook" in the subject line. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail:

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