Global English Language Learning Trends & Statistics

The landscape of English language learning is ever-evolving, with trends and statistics painting a picture of a world increasingly inclined towards bilingualism, if not multilingualism. In this article, we delve into the latest data and trends that define English language learning across the globe.

Current Global Estimate of English Language Learners

As of the latest reports, there are approximately 1.5 billion English language learners worldwide [1]. This number represents individuals of all ages who are learning English as an additional language.

The current global estimate of English language learners is approximately 1.5 billion. This includes both native and non-native speakers of English.

CountryEstimated Number of Native English Speakers
USA257 million
United Kingdom68 million
Canada29 million
Australia25.1 million
Ireland4.7 million
India265 million
Pakistan104 million
Philippines64 million
Nigeria60 million
Australia19 million
Kenya10 million
South Africa8.2 million
Singapore4 million
New Zealand3.8 million
Jamaica459,000

Please note that these numbers are estimates and can vary based on the source and methodology used for data collection.

Please note that these numbers are estimates and can vary based on the source and methodology used for data collection.

Here are the countries with the highest number of non-native English speakers:

CountryNon-Native English Speakers
India265 million
Pakistan104 million
Nigeria60 million
Philippines52 million
United States49 million
Germany46.6 million
Egypt35 million
Uganda29 million
France26.2 million
Italy20.7 million

As for non-native English speakers, India leads with around **257 million**. Other countries with a high number of non-native English speakers include the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark¹¹. It’s important to note that these numbers are estimates and can vary based on the source and methodology used for data collection. 

Change in English Learners Over the Past Decade in the US.

The landscape of English language learners (ELLs) has undergone significant changes over the past decade, marked by shifts in demographics, educational approaches, and societal attitudes. This article excerpt explores these changes, highlighting key trends and their implications.

Demographic Changes

  • Increase in ELL Population: From the 2000-01 school year to 2019-20, the number of English learners in U.S. public schools rose from approximately 3.8 million to over 5.1 million, accounting for 10.4% of total student enrollment. This represents a 2.3 percentage point increase nationally.
  • Regional Shifts: English learner enrollment surged in states across the South and Midwest, regions that previously had minimal ELL populations. However, seven states west of the Mississippi River, including California, experienced a decrease in ELL numbers.

Educational Approach and Policy Changes

  • From Assimilation to Bilingual Education: Historically, the focus for non-English speakers in the U.S. was primarily on assimilation. This changed in the mid-20th century with the recognition of the need for specialized instruction for non-English-speaking students, marked by the 1968 Bilingual Education Act.
  • Fluctuations in Bilingual Education Support: The 1970s saw increased recognition of the value of students’ home languages, while the 1980s witnessed a reduction in funding for bilingual education in favour of English immersion programs. The 1990s and 2000s saw further oscillations between these approaches.
  • 21st Century Developments: In the 2010s, numerous studies recognized the cognitive and social benefits of bilingualism, leading to a resurgence in bilingual education programs. The 2020s have seen a rise in dual-language classrooms, with some states mandating bilingual education as needed.

Societal and Economic Factors

  • Job Market Influence: The demand for bilingual or trilingual applicants more than doubled from 2010 to 2015, reflecting a practical advantage in language skills in the job market.
  • Shift in Perception of Foreign Languages: There has been a marked difference historically between native English speakers learning a second language and non-native English-speaking immigrants learning English. This perception has evolved, with a growing appreciation of multilingualism in American society.

Trends in English Proficiency Levels Across Different Regions

Northern European countries continue to lead in proficiency levels, while some Asian and Middle Eastern countries are showing the fastest improvement rates.

Based on the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) for 2023, which ranks countries and regions based on their English skills, the following trends are evident:

  • Very High Proficiency: Countries like the Netherlands (ranked 1st), Singapore, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Portugal, South Africa, Germany, Croatia, and Greece showcase very high proficiency in English​​.
  • High Proficiency: Nations such as Poland, Finland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Kenya, the Philippines, Lithuania, and Luxembourg fall under this category​​.
  • Moderate Proficiency: Countries including Honduras, Georgia, Belarus, Ghana, Spain, Italy, Moldova, Costa Rica, Albania, Uruguay, Bolivia, Russia, Cuba, France, Ukraine, Paraguay, Uganda, Armenia, South Korea, El Salvador, Peru, Chile, Guatemala, Israel, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Nepal, Iran, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, and Nicaragua are categorized as having moderate proficiency​​.
  • Low Proficiency: This group includes Pakistan, Lebanon, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Panama, Mongolia, Qatar, Colombia, Morocco, Algeria, Madagascar, Indonesia, Ecuador, Syria, China, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Kuwait, Malawi, Japan, Afghanistan, Mexico, Myanmar, and Kyrgyzstan​​.
  • Very Low Proficiency: Countries like Palestine, Uzbekistan, Cameroon, Senegal, Jordan, Sudan, Cambodia, Haiti, Oman, Angola, Thailand, Benin, Kazakhstan, Somalia, Iraq, Côte d’Ivoire, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Libya, Yemen, Tajikistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are at the bottom of the proficiency scale​​.

These rankings provide a comprehensive overview of English proficiency levels across different countries and regions worldwide, reflecting a diverse range of educational, economic, and cultural influences on language learning and proficiency.

Age Groups with Significant Increases in English Language Learning

Young learners, particularly those in pre-primary and primary education, have shown the most significant increase in English language learning, a trend driven by early language programs [4].

The age groups experiencing the most significant increases in English language learning vary, with different segments showing notable growth. Here’s a breakdown of the key findings:

  1. Younger Generations (18-44 Years Old): A significant proportion of younger generations, especially those between 18 and 44 years old, are learning more than one language, including English. This trend is particularly strong in the 25-34 age group, driven by educational and professional growth motivations. However, older generations, typically above 45 years old, tend to be monolingual, primarily speaking only English, and show less interest in learning additional languages
  2. Children and Teenagers (<18 Years): The segment under 18 years old accounts for the largest share of the English language learning market in 2023. Factors contributing to this include the increasing digitization of public schools, a rise in the number of English learners, significant growth in smartphone usage, the popularity of online interactive games for language learning, and the expansion of e-learning platforms. This trend is expected to continue driving segment growth in the coming years 
  3. Young Adults (18-20 Years): The 18-20 years age group is projected to register the highest compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during the forecast period. This growth is attributed to the rising demand for cost-effective learning programs, the growing importance of English in business and professional areas, and the emergence of new online language learning platforms following the COVID-19 pandemic

These trends indicate a strong emphasis on English language learning among younger people, especially children, teenagers, and young adults, driven by technological advancements, the digitalization of education, and the increasing importance of English in various spheres of life.

It is also worth noting that English language learning is a global trend across all age groups. The use of digital platforms for language learning has seen a significant increase, especially among younger learners. For instance, Duolingo, a popular language learning app, reported over 30 million new users in the weeks following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic1.

In many countries, English is introduced at a young age in schools, and the number of students learning English as a foreign language is substantial. For example, in 2021, Canada reported approximately 61,000 students learning English as a second language.

However, it’s not just younger learners who are studying English. Many adults are also learning English for professional development and personal enrichment. The availability of online resources and language learning apps has made it easier for people of all ages to learn English at their own pace

Trends in English Language Learning Materials and Textbooks

The recent trends in English Language Teaching (ELT) and learning materials reflect a dynamic shift towards more inclusive, technologically integrated, and real-world relevant methods. These trends can be categorized into various themes:

Green ELT

  • Focus: Incorporating environmental topics in ELT due to growing climate crisis awareness.
  • Initiatives: ELT Footprint, Renewable English, Green Action ELT.
  • Integration: UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in ELT resources.

DEIB: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

  • Key Aspects: Inclusivity in age, race, gender, (dis)abilities, religions, sexual orientations, etc.
  • Topics Addressed: Creating accessible materials, multicultural inclusion, LGBTQ+ rights, combating native-speakerism.

Virtual Reality (VR) in ELT

  • Benefits:
  • Higher level of spoken language (B1 instead of A2).
  • Improved vocabulary retention.
  • Enhanced use of positional language.
  • Greater confidence among anxious students【10†source】.

Mediation

  • Concept: Conveying meaning to support learning.
  • Applications: Explaining texts, describing visuals, summarizing information sources.

Life Skills Integration

  • Skills Included: Communication, social, academic, critical thinking, problem-solving, digital, work skills.
  • Importance: Essential for student success in real-world scenarios.

Task-Based Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

  • Approach: Language emerges naturally during task completion.
  • Benefits: Promotes natural language use, life skills, and integrates assessments into learning.

English Language Textbooks and Learning Materials

  • Goal Shift: Focus on English as a means of communication, incorporating content learning in other subjects like science and mathematics.
  • Early Start: Introduction of English in early grades for faster learning.
  • Teaching and Text Design: Use of descriptive texts and various accents to encourage learning.
  • E-Learning: Introduction of e-books, leveraging digital devices for flexible learning.
  • Strategic Teaching and Learning: Focus on language content and outcomes, enhancing teacher-student interactions.
  • Teaching Methods: Conversations and role-play, summarizing and evaluation, humour in teaching, language through literature, games, and inductive grammar teaching.
  • Blended Learning: Combination of traditional and digital teaching methods.
  • Mobile Learning: Use of apps and mobile-friendly resources.
  • Gamification: Learning through games and interactive apps.
  • Embodied Learning: Mind and body collaboration in learning, using interactive courses
  • Inquiry-Based Learning: Real-world experiences and soft skills development
  • English as a Lingua Franca: Global use of English, focusing on communication rather than specific accents
  • Multiliteracies and Trans-Languaging: Encouraging bilingualism and social skills
  • Supporting Learners Of Specific Needs: Specialized courses for different professional fields
  • Content Creation and Sharing: Encouraging the creation and sharing of learning content through various online platforms
  • Learning and Teaching Management Platforms: Tools like Edmodo for classroom management and communication

These trends underscore a shift towards more holistic, inclusive, and technologically advanced approaches in English language education, catering to diverse learning needs and preparing students for a globalized world.

Sources

  • English Language Statistics | Lemongrad
  • ESL Market Statistics: How Many People Learn English?| ThoughtCo.
  • English Language Statistics: How Many People Learn English? | DoTEFL.
  • How Many People Speak English in 2023 (Latest Data) | MyClassTracks.
  • English-speaking world – Wikipedia.
  • Best Non-Native English Speaking Countries | Exeleon Magazine
  • Chart: English, The Global Language? | Statista.
  • English language students by country 2021 | Statista.
  • List of countries by English-speaking population | Wikipedia.
  • English Speaking Countries 2023 | World Population Review.
  • The most spoken languages worldwide 2023 | Statista.
  • The destinations with the top non-native English speakers | CNN.
  • English Language Learning Market to be Worth $82 Billion by 2030 | Meticulous Research
  • Global English Language Learning Market Report to 2029 | Global News Wire
  • Language Learning Statistics 2023: The Most Learned Second Language | Ling
  • EF EPI 2023 | EF English Proficiency Index 
  • Ellii Blog: “6 English Language Teaching Trends to Watch in 2023″​​.
  • Henry Harvin Blog: “Top Current Trends in Teaching ESL in 2023 [Updated]
  • U.S. Department of Education: Report on English-language-learner enrollment from 2000 to 2017​​.
  • NCELA – English Language Acquisition & Language Instruction Educational Programs: Demographic trends of English Learners from 2000–01 to 2019–20 school years​​.
  • Heytutor.com: Article on the evolution of English-language learner education since the 1950s​