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Countries Where English is an Official Language

If you were asked to list countries where English is an official language, you might list Great Britain, or the USA, or maybe even Jamaica. However, English is an official language in only two of those. Before getting into which country does not hold English as an official language, we will need to define some terms. Without defining official language, you will not want to accept the answer as to which of these three countries does not hold English as its official language. An official language is defined by as “a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction.” An official language is recognized by law as a nation’s language. You will also need the definition of a de facto language. de facto is defined by Merriam Webster as “being such in effect though not formally recognized.” So, a de facto language is the language commonly used, although it is not officially/formally recognized by the governing body.

Official Language vs. De Facto Language

English is also known as the lingua franca (trade language) of most of the world. This may be due to the expansion of English’s popularity due to colonization by the British Empire across the globe. From the Americas to India to Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Great Britain’s reach stretched for centuries. By World War 1, it had control of 25% of the world’s landmass and 20% of the world’s population. With so much dominance, they also controlled much of the world’s trade as well, which necessitated the use of English as the world’s trade language. After WWI, Great Britain lost much of its influence, but the influence of the English language lingered on.

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With that in mind, take a look at the countries that have English as an official language recognized by law. They are organized by continents and regions. The country that you will not see is going to surprise you.


Botswana- land-locked country

Cameroon- country formerly colonized by France and Great Britain

Eswatini- landlocked country, formerly called Swaziland

Gambia– smallest country on the African continent

Ghana- 1st sub-saharan country to gain independence from Great Britain

Kenya- 3rd largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa

Lesotho- a country completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa, gained independence in 1966

Liberia- a country established by free people of color from the United States prior to the Civil War

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Malawi- Chichewa is the other official language

Namibia– one of largest producers of uranium

Nigeria- most populous African country, there are 250 ethnic groups and over 500 languages spoken

Sierra Leone- country in Southern Africa, 3rd largest natural harbor in world

South Africa- southern-most African country, it has 3 cities that serve as capitals

Tanzania- contains Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest point 

Uganda- landlocked country 

Zambia-landlocked country in the middle of Central, Southern and East Africa

Zimbabwe- home of Victoria Falls

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Singapore- sovereign island city-state, located in maritime South-east Asia

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Atlantic Ocean

Bahamas- an archipelagic state consisting of 700 islands, cays, and islets

Bermuda- island, British territory

Turks and Caicos Islands- 2 sets of islands

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Australia- the only country that is also a continent 

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Anguilla– island, British territory

Antigua and Barbuda– sovereign island country, between Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean

Barbados- island

British Virgin Islands- archipelago, British territory

Cayman Islands- islands, self-governed British territory

Dominica- island country

Grenada- island at end of the line of Grenadine islands

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Jamaica- 3rd largest Caribbean Island

Montserrat- British territory in Carribean

St. Kitts and Nevis- world’s smallest sovereign federation, Commonwealth realm of Great Britain

St. Lucia- island country, only country named after a woman

St. Vincent and the Grenadines-island country

Trinidad and Tobago– southernmost island in Caribbean

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England- country that borders with Wales and Scotland

Gibraltar- British territory on tip of Iberian Peninsula, borders with Spain

Malta- archipelagic island country in Mediterranean Sea

Northern Ireland- part of Great Britain

Republic of Ireland- southern part of Irish island

Scotland- part of Great Britain

United Kingdom- sovereign European country

Wales- part of the United Kingdom

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Indian Ocean

Mauritius- island nation 1200 miles to the East of Africa

Seychelles-an archipelagic island country

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North America

Canada (except Quebec)- country formerly colonized by France and Great Britain

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Pacific Ocean

Fiji- archipelago of over 330 islands

New Zealand- island country, the land of the Kiwis

Papua New Guinea- island country

Solomon Islands- sovereign island state

Tonga- last existing indigenous monarchy

Vanuatu- developed due to volcanic activity

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South America

Belize- country bordered by Mexico and the Caribbean

Guyana- borders Brazil and the Atlantic Ocean, formerly colonized by France and Great Britain

Canva Design DAE1JzHfiHQWas there a country missing from the list? Perhaps from North America? The United States does not have an official language. English is the de facto language, but it is not officially recognized by the government as the official language of the United States. There was a bill introduced in the US Senate to make English the official language of the US, but it died in the subcommittee. Surprised?

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