The Lingua Franca that is English

There are tourists and there are travelers. What’s the difference between the two?  One blogger has described the difference thus: ‘ The difference between a tourist and a traveler is that the traveler goes to a place without any preconceptions, whereas the tourist has already decided on how he’s going to experience it. The traveler has an open mind and lets the place happen to him. The tourist brings with him his own environment and expectations, thereby diluting (polluting?) the experience’. G.K. Chesterton put it even more succinctly: ‘The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see’. I know someone who went to Thailand almost every single year but never ate Thai food. He sustained himself on each trip by eating every day in — wait for it — McDonalds! The fact of the matter however is that everyone can’t be a Bear Grylls or Paul Theroux! We live in a world of infinite shades of grey where we all have our own respective comfort zones beyond which we will not venture. For some, that comfort zone relates to food; for others it’s language — hence the title of this weeks’ blog. We all know that English is the world’s true global language — the working language most used by those for whom it is not their mother tongue, but have you ever wondered how many places in the world have English as their ‘official’ language, where you can feel most at home, linguistically speaking?

According to Wikipedia, there are 88 states (60 sovereign and 28 non-sovereign) around the world where English is the official language (i.e. language of government, commerce etc. — see map) The list includes all the usual suspects — Caribbean, much of Africa and a lot of island nations in Oceania and Micronesia. What you will be amazed to find though is that English is not an official language in Australia, the United States or even the UK itself. In these three countries English is simply referred to the de facto language! So, here’s something to test your grey matter: What two countries in Central and South America both feature English as the official language?







Yes, you guessed right — Belize (formerly known as British Honduras) and Guyana (itself originally a Dutch colony!)

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