English First - Nashville

Salikoko Mufwene s-mufwene at UCHICAGO.EDU
Tue Jan 13 06:51:05 UTC 2009

The following link to Wikipedia provides information about numbers of
English speakers by country. There are surprises but the figures are
consistent with some of those I have seen in publications on world
Englishes. The site provides sources as well as information about what
kinds of speakers are counted.


I had an opportunity to visit Shanghai this past summer. It was often
easier to find English speakers among peddlers in touristic areas than
among scholars at the international conference I attended. Even the
clerical staff of the major hotel where I stayed had just about one
English-speaker per shift. However, .77% of a population of over 1
billion is numerically more important than 90% of a population of 10
million. It all depends on how you interpret the figures and what you
want to use them for.


Laurence Horn wrote:
> At 3:22 PM -0800 1/11/09, Dave Wilton wrote:
>> I too disagree. Unless you lower the standard of what qualifies as
>> "speaking
>> English" to an absurdly low level, there is no way that there are
>> more than
>> 300 million English speakers in China.
> Why would that many be needed.  The claim reported by Wilson (not
> that I'm endorsing it, or even that he is) concerns which country has
> the most English speakers *after* the U.S., so the likely competition
> would indeed be India, followed I assume by the U.K.
> LH
>> That's one third of the population.
>> Personal observation: when I was in Beijing, we had to use an
>> interpreter to
>> communicate with wait staff in restaurants, even those that catered
>> primarily to foreigners. (Hotel staff, on the other hand, pretty much
>> all
>> spoke English.) Interpreters were a must in most business meetings. I
>> was in
>> environments that would be particularly favorable to finding English
>> speakers, but they were relatively rare. Once outside of Beijing,
>> Shanghai,
>> and Hong Kong, I'm sure the percentage of English speakers drops
>> precipitously. Compare this to Europe where most service workers in
>> metropolitan areas speak English quite well (even Parisian waiters, who
>> choose not to) and where business professionals virtually all speak
>> English
>> pretty much fluently.
>> India, on the other hand, I would be more inclined to believe, but even
>> there, 300 million would be a lot.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
>> Behalf Of
>> Benjamin Barrett
>> Sent: Sunday, January 11, 2009 2:56 PM
>> Subject: Re: English First - Nashville
>> I find this difficult to believe. It would surprise me if it weren't
>> the case that applying the same criteria to the US would find that
>> America has the largest population of French speakers in the world.
>> After all, we do say adieu, double entendre, prix fixe, moi?, etc. BB
>> On Jan 11, 2009, at 11:58 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>>  Not to mention that English is the (foreign) language of choice
>>>  world-wide. Isn't China reputed to be the largest English-speaking
>>>  country after our own?
>>>  -Wilson
>>>  On Sun, Jan 11, 2009 at 9:00 AM, David Metevia
>>> <djmetevia at chartermi.net
>>>  > wrote:
>>>>  From today's NYT:
>>>>  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/us/11english.html
>>>>  Councilman Eric Crafton hopes to make Nashville the largest city in
>>>>  the
>>>>  United States to prohibit the government from using languages other
>>>>  than
>>>>  English.
>>>>  I don't understand the concern as we will continue to be an English
>>>>  language country as long as the majority of the population is
>>>>  monolingual.
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Salikoko S. Mufwene                    s-mufwene at uchicago.edu
Frank J. McLoraine Distinguished Service Professor
University of Chicago                  773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
Department of Linguistics
1010 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637, USA

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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