English in the Commonwealth of Nations


The use of the
English language English is a of the , originally spoken by the inhabitants of . It is named after the , one of the ancient that migrated from , a peninsula on the (not to be confused with ), to the area of later named after them: . Living languages mos ...

English language
in most current and former
member countries
member countries
of the
Commonwealth of Nations The Commonwealth of Nations, generally known simply as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 54 member states, almost all of which are former territorial evolution of the British Empire, territories of the British Empire. The chief ins ...

Commonwealth of Nations
was inherited from
British colonisation
British colonisation
Mozambique Mozambique (), officially the Republic of Mozambique ( pt, Moçambique or , ; ny, Mozambiki; sw, Msumbiji; ts, Muzambhiki), is a country located in Southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malaw ...

, which joined the Commonwealth in 1996, is a special case: English is widely spoken there, despite it being a former
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

colony (though the port of
Chinde Chinde is a town of Mozambique Mozambique (), officially the Republic of Mozambique ( pt, Moçambique or , ; ny, Mozambiki; sw, Msumbiji; ts, Muzambhiki), is a country located in Southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the eas ...

was leased by Britain from 1891 to 1923). English is spoken as a first or second language in most of the Commonwealth. In a few countries such as
Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially called the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or politi ...
Malaysia Malaysia ( ; ) is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is the United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions that are geographically south of C ...
, it does not have
official status
official status
but is widely used as a . Many regions, notably
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...
Brunei Brunei ( ; ), officially the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace ( ms, Negara Brunei Darussalam, JawiJawi may refer to: People and languages *Australia: **Jawi dialect, a nearly extinct Australian aboriginal language **Jawi people, an Aus ...
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of . Its extend from the to the and northward into the , covering , making it the world's . Its southern and western , stretching , is the world's longest bi-national land border. Canada's capital ...
Hong Kong Hong Kong (; , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR), is a and of China on the eastern in . With over 7.5 million residents of various nationalities in a territory, Hong ...
India India, officially the Republic of India (: ), is a country in . It is the by area, the country, and the most populous in the world. Bounded by the on the south, the on the southwest, and the on the southeast, it shares land borders wit ...
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island upright=1.15, Great_Britain.html"_;"title="Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain">Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain_(right),_are_large_islands_of_north-west_Europe image:Small_Island_in ...
Malaysia Malaysia ( ; ) is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is the United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions that are geographically south of C ...
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and more than 700 List of islands of New Zealand, smaller islands, coveri ...
Pakistan Pakistan, . Pronounced variably in English as , , , and . officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geography, geographical and culture, e ...
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a island in . It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the , off the southern tip of the , bordering the to the west, the () to the south, and the to the east. The country' ...
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most populous nation and covers an area of . South Africa has three capital cities ...
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka (, ; si, ශ්‍රී ලංකාව, Śrī Laṅkā, translit-std=ISO (); ta, இலங்கை, Ilaṅkai, translit-std=ISO ()), formerly known as Ceylon, and officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is ...
and the Caribbean English, Caribbean, have developed their own native varieties of the language. Written English in the current and former Commonwealth generally favours British spelling as opposed to American, with some exceptions, particularly in Canada, where there are strong influences from neighbouring American English. Few Commonwealth countries besides Canada and Australia have produced their own variant English Dictionary, dictionaries and style guides, and may rely on those produced in other countries. The report of the Inter-Governmental Group on Criteria for Commonwealth Membership states that English is a symbol of Commonwealth heritage and unity.

Native varieties

Southern Hemisphere native varieties of English began to develop during the 18th century, with the colonisation of Australasia and South Africa. Australian English and New Zealand English are closely related to each other, and share some similarities with South African English (though it has unique influences from indigenous African languages, and Dutch language, Dutch influences it inherited along with the development of Afrikaans from Dutch). Canadian English contains elements of British English and American English, as well as many A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, Canadianisms and some French influences. It is the product of several waves of immigration and settlement, from Britain, Ireland, France, the United States, and around the world, over a period of almost two centuries. Modern Canadian English has taken significant vocabulary and spelling from the shared political and social institutions of Commonwealth countries.

The Caribbean

Caribbean English is influenced by the English-based Creole language, Creole varieties spoken, but they are not one and the same. There is a great deal of variation in the way English is spoken, with a "Standard English" at one end of a bipolar linguistic continuum and Creole languages at the other. These dialects have roots in 17th-century British and Irish English, and African languages, plus localised influences from other Colonial Era, colonial languages including French, Spanish, and Dutch; unlike most native varieties of English, West Indian dialects often tend to be syllable-timed rather than Timing (linguistics), stress-timed.

Non-native varieties

Second-language varieties of English in Africa and Asia have often undergone "indigenisation"; that is, each English-speaking community has developed (or is in the process of developing) its own standards of usage, often under the influence of local languages. These dialects are sometimes referred to as ''New Englishes'' (McArthur, p. 36); most of them inherited Rhoticity in English, non-rhoticity from Southern British English.


Several dialects of List of English dialects, West African English exist, with a lot of regional variation and some influence from indigenous languages. West African English tends to be Isochrony, syllable-timed, and its phoneme inventory is much simpler than that of Received Pronunciation; this sometimes affects mutual intelligibility with native varieties of English. A distinctive List of English dialects, North African English, often with significant influences from Bantu languages such as Swahili language, Swahili, is spoken in countries such as Kenya or Tanzania, particularly in Nairobi and other cities where there is an expanding middle class, for whom English is increasingly being used in the home as the first language. Small communities of native English speakers can be found in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia; the dialects spoken are similar to native South African English.


India has the largest English-speaking population in the Commonwealth, although comparatively few speakers of Indian English are first-language speakers. The same is true of English spoken in other parts of South Asia, e.g. Pakistani English, Sri Lankan English, and Bangladeshi English. South Asian English phonology is highly variable; stress, rhythm and intonation are generally different from those of native varieties. There are also several peculiarities at the levels of morphology, syntax and usage, some of which can also be found among educated speakers. Southeast Asian English comprises Singapore English, Malaysian English, and Brunei English; it features some influence from Malay language, Malay and Chinese language, Chinese languages, as well as Indian English. Hong Kong ceased to be part of the Commonwealth in 1997. Nonetheless, Hong Kong English, the English language there still enjoys status as an official language.

See also

* British English * American English * EF English Proficiency Index * English-speaking world Other languages: * Community of Portuguese Language Countries *Dutch Language Union * Francophonie, La Francophonie * Latin Union * List of countries by spoken languages


* Tom McArthur (linguist), McArthur, Tom (2002). ''The Oxford Guide to World English''. Oxford: Oxford University Press. . * Peters, Pam (2004). ''The Cambridge Guide to English Usage''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. . * Peter Trudgill, Trudgill, Peter & Hannah, Jean (2002). ''International English: A Guide to the Varieties of Standard English''; 4th ed. London: Arnold. . ;Specific {{Commonwealth of Nations topics Dialects of English, Commonwealth of Nations Symbols of the Commonwealth of Nations