1. English around the world

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English is NOT the most spoken first language in the world - Mandarin Chinese is. About 1.1 billion people speak Mandarin as their first language, and only about 400 million people are English native speakers. 

So why is English considered to be the global language?
Perhaps it is because it has the largest number of second language speakers. Since there is no clear and universal definition of "second language speaker", estimates vary, but David Crystal, a British linguistics professor and a leading expert on the English language, estimates that the total number of speakers of English as a second language is approaching 1.6 billion. That adds up to two thousand million people understanding and speaking (at least to some extent) English - a quarter of the world's population! And the number is growing...
Consequently, English is used in a large variety of different forms and functions around the world, leading to numerous opportunities, but also presenting many challenges to people and nations.

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1.1 Meet non-native English speakers around the world

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The majority of people on our planet speak more than one language. Meet five people from different parts of the world who speak English as a second language.
Find out how many languages they speak, how they use English in their daily lives and how it is connected to their identity.

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Task

Watch the videos, then answer the questions below.

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Alyssa Denzel Emmanuel Ryan Siphelele
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Urheber: Digitale Lernwelten GmbH

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Urheber: Digitale Lernwelten GmbH

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Urheber: Digitale Lernwelten GmbH

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Urheber: Digitale Lernwelten GmbH

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Urheber: Digitale Lernwelten GmbH

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Urheber: Digitale Lernwelten GmbH

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Alyssa Denzel Emmanuel Ryan Siphelele
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1.2 Where is English spoken and used?

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Explore the interactive maps.

The following maps show seven different regions around the world: Europe, Africa, North America, South America, Asia, Middle East and Oceania.
By clicking on the (+), you will find more information about the numbers of English speakers in some of the countries in these regions.
All the numbers are taken from The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language by David Crystal, second and third edition.

Legend:
L1 speakers = native speakers
L2 speakers = speakers of English as a Second Language
* English has official status
+ English is used de facto as the primary language although it is not an official language
(c) The number includes speakers of a pidgin/creole variety of English (as a second language)

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Find at least 5 countries (from at least two regions) in which more than 40% of the total population are L2 speakers of English. Then compare your list with those of two classmates.

Were you surprised by any findings? If so, why?

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For some countries, data from 2001 and 2017 is available. Choose 4 countries from the following list and compare the total number of inhabitants and the total number of L2 speakers in 2001 and 2017. 

Africa: Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania.
Asia: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong.
North America: Barbados, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Belize, United States, Canada.
South America
: Suriname, Guyana.
Oceania: Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu.

How have the numbers developed? Which trend(s) can you observe?

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In many countries, a so-called creole or pidgin language has developed and is spoken by many people - a new language that is a mix of English and one or more local languages. Countries where this is the case are marked with (c). 

Find at least one country in each of the following geographical areas where a creole or pidgin language is spoken: North America, South America, Africa and Oceania .
Then do an online search (type the name of the country and the word "creole" into the search engine) to find out what the language is called and to see some examples.

After having explored the maps, discuss:

Why are different colours used? What could these colours indicate?

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? Europe Africa North America South America Asia Middle East Oceania
Europe Africa North America South America Asia Middle East Oceania

1.3 The "three circles of English"

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The British Empire conquered land around the globe. One of the results was the spread of the English language.

The spread of English is a direct result of British and American imperialism. In many former colonies (or 'territories', as the colonists preferred to call them from 1914 onwards), English still plays an important role.

The Indian linguist Braj Kachru has developed a model that describes the spread of English in three concentric circles. Click through the slides below to understand Kachru's model and find out why modern linguists believe the last circle should get a new name.

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Kachru's three circles of English
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Task

Match the following countries to the corresponding circle of Kachru's model. If you are unsure, revisit the maps above.

When you are finished, check if you were correct.

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Task

Evaluate your results from the matching-exercise above:

  • Which classification surprised you and why? Write your answer in the box below.
  • What could be possible historical reasons for that classification? Do an online search to find out.
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