Anyone know how much of the world uses British versus American English?

closed as off topic by TimLymington, FumbleFingers, simchona, kiamlaluno, user2683 Mar 20 '12 at 2:11

Questions on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange are expected to relate to English language and usage within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Off-topic - belongs on linguistics.se – FumbleFingers Mar 15 '12 at 16:30
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers: why? – Marthaª Mar 15 '12 at 16:50
  • 4
    [not off-topic] ≠ [better suited]. IOW I don't think we should close questions that are on-topic just because they're maybe-perhaps more on-topic somewhere else. (I'm declining at this point to decide whether this question is, in fact, more on-topic on Linguistics.) – Marthaª Mar 15 '12 at 17:14
  • 1
    I would say it's off-topic here because statistics on population are not on-topic. – kiamlaluno Mar 17 '12 at 21:05
  • 2
    @Mitch The question is not about any word difference between American English, and in British English; the question is about how much people use British English, and how much people use American English. The topic on EL&U is English, not the people speaking English. – kiamlaluno Mar 18 '12 at 23:03

It depends to a large extent on how you define the terms, but the United States has over 200 million people who speak English as a first language and over 30 million who speak it as a second language. The figures for the UK are 57 million and 1 million. (Source: ‘The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language’.) It’s difficult to know to what extent the same proportions exist in the wider world, particularly since there are parts of the English-speaking world that speak neither, but I would guess that American English predominates.

  • 1
    I'm thinking he means geographically, as opposed to numerically. For example, do Australians use British English, or American English? What about Canadians? And, if they use "neither," does that mean they are using, say, Canadian English? Or simply a mixture of British and American English? – J.R. Mar 15 '12 at 10:13
  • 1
    @J.R. I have taken varieties such as Australian English and Canadian English to be discrete. They may share some features with British or American English, but their accents alone set them apart. As I said, it depends on how you define your terms. Even then, the relevant data might be very hard to collect. – Barrie England Mar 15 '12 at 10:28

How people speak sometimes depends on who they are talking to. I used to think my English is more American because of the books I read and television influence, since I enjoy more American authors and TV programs than British ones. Nowadays in Singapore I believe we speak a number of variations of English and switch between them quite unconsciously; like someone who reads lips and is hard of hearing will (I believe) have to adjust how she reads, depending who is speaking to her. Otherwise there will be more misreadings.

As Singaporeans, we find many friends switching to another accent, or even different sentence structures, just because the person they are talking to is Caucasian, or Japanese; but with Singaporeans it depends. If it were at the supermarket or a street open air food court, I think its global multi-English. Not only Singlish but a sensitivity towards different speakers makes me a multi-English speaker. When I write I use different styles if it's for different publications.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.