English is often cited as being one of the world’s most spoken languages with a total of roughly 1.35 billion speakers. As such, it’s probably not surprising that there are hundreds of dialects of English spoken in hundreds of different countries. Literally.
Yet, as with all things, some dialects of English are more spoken that others. So here is the list of the 15 most common dialects of English you’re likely to run into!
15. British English
The official dialect of English spoken in the UK, British English is often considered to be “patient zero” for English dialects. After all, it’s the official dialect of the country where the language originated…
A Germanic language, British English has been influenced by languages like French – thanks to the Norman Conquest in 1066 – evolving from the highly Germanic Anglo-Saxon into Anglo-Norman, Early Modern English and Modern English.
Eventually becoming the British English we all know and love, the British Empire then spread British English to every inhabited continent through their many colonies (where British English was the official language).
Descended from both Anglo-Saxon and Norman French, British English has a large portion of Germanic and Romance Language vocabulary
Currently, there are 63 million British English speakers across the world, most of whom are native Brits living in the UK, with most of the rest being Brits living abroad, such as in Australia, Spain and the US.
As any of our British readers will be able to tell you, there are several sub-dialects of British English, including Brummie (Birmingham), Yorkshire and Received Pronunciation (the Queen’s English), all of which couldn’t be further apart from each other!
14. American English
Perhaps the most famous dialect of English (after British English anyway) is American English – a dialect of English that has been spread to almost every corner of the globe, especially where the British hadn’t!
When the British first arrived in what’s now the Eastern United States, then known as the Thirteen Colonies, the first colonists spoke British English. Over time, however, especially after the American Revolution, the US’s English began to alter.
Influenced by neighboring languages like Dutch, French and Spanish, American English began to form, replacing English words like “holiday” with “vacation” and “petrol” with “gas/gasoline”.
Beyond that, speakers of American English began to pronounce certain words differently (such as tomato being to-mah-toe in British English and to-maay-toe in American English).
Similarly, several new terms sprung up in American English, which were initially unique to American English. Perhaps the bets example of this is “sidewalk” which is called a “path” in British English.
Then there’s also the vastly different spellings, such as organise/organize and colour/color.
Currently, there are roughly 310 million American English speakers in the US alone. Beyond that, due to the influence of the so-called “American Empire”, American English is often the dialect of English taught as a second language around the world.
Much like British English, American English also has several sub-dialects such as Southern, Western and New England, all of which are similarly extremely different!
13. Philippine English
English was first introduced to what’s now the Philippines in 1762, when the British invaded and occupied Manila and the nearby port of Cavite. The occupation, which lasted until 1764, had next to no impact on English in the country.
Over the coming decades and centuries, English-speaking missionaries visited the islands (then occupied by Spain) and spread the language and Christianity, although this was on a small scale and was relatively isolated.
Then, English was introduced to the Philippines on a mass scale after the US occupied the country in the wake of WWII. Here, English soon became quite common in trade, business and the media, with many Filipinos choosing to learn the language.
Baaed almost solely off American English, Philippine English soon emerged as local Filipinos began using Tagalog (Filipino) words in place of
As of the time of writing, it’s estimates that there are around 64 million Philippine English speakers around the world, with most being in the Philippines, where it holds co-official status alongside Filipino.
12. Indian English
The British first arrived in what’s now India in August 1608. Over the ensuing centuries, Britain established a much more powerful hold over most of modern-day India. Here, English was the official language of the country in the eye of the British.
Even after India’s independence in 1947, there were so many people in the country who spoke English that it was made an official language of the country.
Yet, after over three centuries of being surrounded by the various regional Indian languages (Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi etc.) these languages had begun to influence the English spoken in India by native Indians.
Principally, the main difference between British English and Indian English is down to pronunciation. In Indian English, silent letters, such as the “l” is “salmon” will be pronounced, whilst the letter “f” is often pronounced as a “v” (although not always).
Other differences include the use of the Indian numbering system (lakh, crore etc.), the use of Indian words in place of their English counterpart, and the introduction of “Indianisms” such as “upgradation” for “upgrade” or “redressal” for “redress”.
Today, it’s estimated that there are around 260 million first and second language speakers of Indian English, almost all of whom are located in India.
Much like British and American English, Indian English similarly has several sub-dialects, whose main difference is the introduction of that area’s region language (eg. Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi etc.)
11. Australian English
10. New Zealand English
Although the British Empire is best known for its far-off colonies on islands no one has ever heard of, arguably the British Empire’s first “colony” was Ireland. They “colonized” it so early that it even predated the foundation of the British Empire!
Initially inhabited by Celts, the British (then the Anglo-Normans) first invaded Ireland in 1169, before establishing their first inhabited colonies there in the 1550’s, often at the expense of the native Irish people.
Having been continually surrounded by the English language, the native Irish began to pick up English from the English soldiers and traders they constantly dealt with.
Over time, this mixed with the Irish language to become Hiberno-English, otherwise known as Irish English.
Descended from British English (or more accurately, the 16th century Elizabethan English), Hiberno-English has often replaced English words for their Irish counterparts, borrowed Irish language grammar and fused Irish and English words into entirely new ones.
Interestingly, words like “to” are often omitted (where they’d be used in British English) whilst other words like “now” and “sure/surely” are used at the end of a sentence when British English speakers usually wouldn’t.
Today, there are roughly 4.35 million Hiberno-English speakers, 99% of whom are in Ireland (primarily the south, but to a lesser extent, the north too) whilst the other 1% is mostly found in the US (part of their Irish-American community).
As with other dialects of English, Hiberno-English has several sub-dialects, which often differ based on how much of the Irish language they use, their accent and how much Elizabethan English is still present (eg. not replaced by modern British English).
8. Caribbean English
7. Pakistani English
6. Canadian English
5. Egyptian English
4. South African English
3. Ghanaian English
2. Nigerian English
1. Hong Kong English
After the Opium Wars between Britain and China, the islands of Hong Kong were ceded to the British. For the next 99 years, Hong Kong was a British territory, with English being the official language of the island.
During this time, whilst various dialects of Chinese were used at home, English was the language of trade, local government, media and so on, with most native Hongkongers speaking both languages.
Although the use of Chinese in trade, local government and media has increased (to an extent) since the Handover in 1997, English remains pretty well spoken.
Known as Hong Kong English, the dialect is based on British English (the official dialect used by the British Empire) and incorporates a lot of Chinese-sounding words, phrases and pronunciation, mostly derived from Mandarin and Cantonese.
This includes altering English words to sound more Chinese, replacing English terms with their Mandarin/Cantonese counterparts and the splicing of an English word and its Mandarin/Cantonese equivalent to create a new word wholly unique to Hong Kong English.
Interestingly, despite the differences between Hong Kong English and British English, there is actually a lot of debate between linguists – some say it’s a separate dialect, whilst others say it’s just a regional dialect of British English.
Currently, there are an estimated 3.2 million Hong Kong English speakers almost all of whom are located in Hong Kong.
Which dialect of English do you speak? Tell me in the comments!