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10+ Asian Countries that Speak English

There are few numbers of native English speakers in Asia. However, the number of people who communicate in English is in the billions. English has the distinction of being the language of an immense number of speakers. 

A significant segment of the Asian population uses English as a second or third language. Most countries like Singapore, India, Pakistan, and Nepal use English as their official language. India is the most populous state that uses English for business and formal communication. 

A Brief History of English in the Asian Continent

English is the first foreign language introduced in Asian Countries. A complex historical background influences English in Asian Continent. This historical complexity shows similarities and differences of Asian English-speaking countries. In some Asian countries like Singapore, English is the medium of instruction. 

Asian English offers various linguistic scenarios. Different regions have influences from their background languages. So, the command of English speakers ultimately varies on social and cultural factors. During the British empire, there were distinct kinds of non-settler colonies. As a result, countries like India or Pakistan form a fair contrast to settler colonies like the United States, Canada, or Australia.

Asian English consists of multiple levels of second-language competence. The English have developed in those countries which were colonies during the British empire. These countries earned the linguistic norms of the English language. Thus, English has an institutional role in these countries. Nowadays, it is used as the official language in these Asian countries. 

Top 10 Asian Countries that Speak English 

In many Asian countries, English is the language of office work and education. A wide gap between those who have and those who do not have proficiency in English is common to all. We can see this language barrier between urban and rural. 

The exact number of English speakers is hard to ascertain due to the diversity of the population. Although, there are about 372 million native English speakers and billion non-native English speakers in the Asian Region. Many Asian countries such as India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Singapore use English as their official language. 

India has an estimated capacity of 125 million English speakers. Other countries such as Pakistan and the Philippines have around 94 and 90 million English speakers. It does not mean that the rest of Asian countries can’t communicate in English. In addition, numerous regional languages integrated English differently. Thus, speakers in different Asian countries use English as a lingua franca.  

If we compare Asian countries to other regions of the world, it has the most comprehensive range of English proficiency. Singapore and the Philippines come on the top of the list with many native English speakers. Malaysia comes in the moderate of the Asian Region. Along with Indonesia and Thailand, it has very low proficiency in the English language. 

There are 24 Asian Nations mentioned in the 2021 edition of the Education First’s English Proficiency Index (EPI). Many non-native English-speaking countries and regions are accumulated in research. 

Singapore has the highest score, 635 shows the EF EPI (Education First’s English Proficiency Index) research. The lowest score of 405 among Asian countries that speak English is Tajikistan.

Although in the regional level of Education First’s, English Proficiency Index Asia is at 504 average points with moderate proficiency bands. 

1. Singapore

Malay is the national language of Singapore. Still, Singapore is on the top of the list of Asian countries that speak English. English is the primary language Singapore has the 66.82 English Proficiency Index (EPI). It tells Singaporeans to use the English language. There are 58% of English speakers in Singapore.

The female and male ratio in English proficiency is quite similar. Males in Singapore have a higher ratio than females because males have an EPI score of 67.06, whereas females have a score of 66.58. Around the globe, Singapore ranks 5th out of 100 countries when speaking the English language. 

Singapore is trending up in English Proficiency, and it is the fastest-improving area in the world. 

Singapore’s population currently is more than 75% Chinese, 15% Malay, 8% Indian (mainly Tamil), and 2% of other backgrounds, but over half of the population is Chinese. 

English is the language of the government, and the business is based on British English.

In the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Singapore is the highest at 7.41 labels. English is used as the primary language of instructions with the expertise in the English dialect to its Educational system. 

  • EF Ranking: #4 out of 112
  • EF EPI score: 635
  • Position in Asia 1 of 24

2. Philippines

The Philippines is the second top English-speaking country. The Philippines also has a high Proficiency band 592. In the Asian Nations EF EPI (Education First’s English Proficiency Index) Rankings, the Philippines has the 2nd highest rankings of 18, backed by Singapore. There are 58% of English speakers in the Philippines. 

Since last year, the English language in the Philippines has been improving fastly in the world and trending up with an average score rise. The EF EPI (Education First’s English Proficiency Index) rankings the Philippines has over the past year has increased by 30+ score change in English skills. 

English is the primary language for education, also for commerce and law. Although, the Philippines has Filipino as the official language. Filipino people come across English media in their lives. 

Now, the Philippines have intermediate knowledge of the English language. English is the language of school instruction. The other is Filipino (Tagalog). Filipinos from middle age learn English in school, which increases the growth of proficiency level of English. 

  • EF Ranking: #18 out of 112
  • EF EPI score: 592
  • Position in Asia 2 of 24

3. Malaysia

Malaysia is an Asian nation that speaks English. In Education First’s English Proficiency Index (EPI), Malaysia ranks at 28 in high proficiency. Malaysia has 562 as an English proficiency band. 

English in and around Malaysia is used widely. Over the past years, English proficiency in Asia has been stable. There are slightly increased trends. 

EF EPI Country and Region Rankings for Malaysia were 547 in 2020. In 2021 changes in English skills were +15 over the past year. There are 62.57% of English speakers in Malaysia. Half of the population knows the English language because it is widely spoken in Malaysia.

Malaysia’s national language is Malay. English is taught as a required topic in Malaysian elementary and secondary schools. English is the academic medium of instruction at Malaysian universities.

Malaysia was once an English colony before attaining independence in 1957. Hence certain British cultural elements, especially the language, have persisted.

  • Urban areas (big cities) – Excellent command of the English language.
  • Semi-urban areas (smaller towns and cities) — Some spoken English.
  • Rural locations – There is sometimes very little English spoken.
  • EF Ranking: #28 of out of 112
  • EF EPI score: 562
  • Position in Asia 3 of 24

4. Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong ranks 32 according to the EF EPI (Education First’s English Proficiency Index). The English proficiency band for Hong Kong, China, is 545. Hong Kong has moderate proficiency. English language growth in Hong Kong is stagnant. 

English is the language of business and formal communication in Hong Kong. The government, academic circles, companies, and the courts use English as the instructional language. 

The English-speaking crowd in Hong Kong, China, is considered lavish. The changes in skills over the past year are 3+ rankings. 

Globalization made English a primary language by choice for communication in Hong Kong. English language fluency is important for work visas. Hong Kong people speak English mixed with a strong Cantonese tone. 

Various types of English exist in Hong Kong. However, British English may have more speakers due to Hong Kong being a former British Colony. Hong Kong people are fluent and grammatically sound but have a Cantonese accent

Hong Kong people speak English with the local dialect of English is spoken in local accents, phrases, and pronunciation. 

  • EF Ranking: #32 out of 112 
  • EF EPI score: 545
  • Position in Asia 4 of 24

5. South Korea 

Moderate proficiency in English in South Korea is not widely spoken. South Korea ranks 37 in the EF EPI (Education First’s English Proficiency Index). The English proficiency band for South Korea is 529. 

English proficiency in Asian nations like South Korea has been more stable, even decreasing. The change in skills for learning English decreased by -16 over the past years. 

Many Koreans lack speaking English language for communication. In South Korea, English is the language of tourists. The English language in South Korea is promoted as a major criterion in education, jobs, etc. 

Many Koreans lack speaking English language for communication. People have a very unique South Korean accent. In South Korea, English is the language of tourists. The English language in South Korea is promoted as a major criterion in education, jobs, etc. 

English in South Korea is the second language. Korean people hesitate to speak English freely. Korean people use standard English because it is a foreign language. The English language is used and supported by local media. 

  • EF Ranking: #37 out of 112
  • EF EPI score: 529
  • Position in Asia 5 of 24

6. India 

India is a secular and democratic country. English proficiency is moderate in India and ranks 48 in the EF EPI (Education First’s English Proficiency Index). The English proficiency band for India is 515. 

English is the official language of India. Language of school, universities, and the government. In India, English is De jure which means English is a legally recognized language. English Speaking population of India 1,393,409,038 in 2021. 

A very slight change is evidenced in trends from the last year. India has a gender gap of 21 in English proficiency. 

Since the past, changes in English skills increased in 2021 by 19 score points. English is important in India as India was a British colony. English is a commonly accepted language. 

It provides a linguistic instrument for Indian administrative coherence, bringing together individuals who speak diverse languages. Second, it serves as a more panoptic communication language, including a wide range of individuals and covering a vast geographical region.

  • EF Ranking: #48 out of 112
  • EF EPI score: 515
  • Position in Asia 6 of 24

7. China

Mandarin is China’s most frequently spoken language. Changes in educational systems gave opportunities to the students to learn English. 

In China, English proficiency is moderate. It has 513 bands according to the EF EPI (Education First’s English Proficiency Index).

China ranks 49 in Asian countries that speak English. The growth of the English language in China has steadily decreased. In China, female points are double of 36 points. 

EF EPI Country and Region Rankings on change in the English skills over the past year is -7. Chinese men and women speak English at roughly similar percentages of 53.41 and 53.47 percent, respectively.

People in large cities of China speak English. China is the most populated country with 0.9% English speakers. The English language in China has been popular since 1990, especially for work and trade. 

In schools, English is taught in the Chinese language. China conducts national English examinations to test English proficiency in reading and writing. 

Learning English is a school affair. People in China hesitate to speak English. 

Tourism in China promotes the use of the English language. 

  • EF Ranking: #49 out of 112 
  • Proficiency: 513

8. Macau, China

According to the EF EPI (Education First’s English Proficiency Index), Macau has 504 band rankings in proficiency. It stands at 57 positions in and around the globe.

Macau is located in Asian Nations and has English proficiency bands that range from moderate to advanced. English is slightly lower in the EF EPI Country and Region Rankings. Over the last year, English skills have fallen by 1.

Residents usually (85.7 percent) speak Cantonese. By 3.2 percent, over 40 percent can communicate in standard Mandarin at home. English and Portuguese are spoken as first languages by 1.5 and 0.6 percent of the population. As a second language, English is commonly taught.

About 1.5% of Macau’s population speaks English, while the rest speak different Chinese dialects. Those involved in trade, business, and tourism are more likely to speak English. 

Many cafes and shopping centers speak English in their commercial communications as well. In Macau, English does not have institutional significance.

Nonetheless, the region’s English-speaking population is growing. English is commonly spoken, particularly in casino resorts and major tourist locations.

  • EF Ranking: #57 out of 112 
  • EF EPI score: 504
  • Position in Asia 8 of 24

9. Nepal

Nepalese English is a dialect of the English language. English in Nepal is prevalent among the cities in Kathmandu. Nepal has around 123 indigenous languages. Because several Nepalese speak English as a second or foreign language, English has most certainly been impacted by Nepal’s many other languages. 

Nepali is the national language, English is the predominant language of business in Nepal. Nepal, where modern English education originated in the 1850s. 

The English language is now an indispensable component of Nepalese life, having infiltrated all aspects of their existence.

Educational institutions agree that English has grown in Nepal with its unique features. The English language in Nepal has no distinct colonial history. The EF EPI (Education First’s English Proficiency Index) ranks Nepal at 9th position in Asia

English proficiency in Asia is more stable than in any other region. Nepal region has a slight increase in English proficiency. It increased by 12 points over the past year. 

  • EF Ranking: #62 out of 112 
  • EF EPI score: 492
  • Position in Asia 9 of 24

10. Pakistan

Less than 8% of the Pakistani population speaks English as their first language. However, more than 49% of the population speak it as a second language. It gives home to the world’s third-largest population of English speakers.

Along with Urdu, English is one of Pakistan’s official languages

Pakistan has key educational institutions. Also, the language of technology and international business. English is the national elite communicational language.

The level of proficiency varies on the majority that speaks the English language. People in Pakistan believe English helps in landing good jobs. 

  • EF Ranking: #63 out of 112
  • EF EPI score: 491
  • Position in Asia 10 of 24

Quick Tips for English Speakers When Visiting Asia 

The population of Asia is 59.76% of the total world population. Asia is the world’s biggest continent in terms of geographical area and people. In Asian Nations countries, English is the official language. Also speaking English anywhere in the world helps in traveling. 

  • Asia has diversity in languages. The countries have different local dialects and official languages. Some Asian countries possess great proficiency in English that is an aid in traveling Asia. Traveling to Asia is convenient.
  • In some countries, English might not be the first language. It can cause a language barrier. It makes it a diverse and fascinating travel destination. 
  •  It has travel, employment, and studies. There are many possibilities of finding the most suitable purpose for visitors and tourists to visit Asia with all this.  
  • Asia is a wonderful destination with many important travel options as the continent itself. There’s simply no excuse not to study in Asia, with a plethora of rich, different cultures to immerse oneself in.
  • With diverse Asian countries and cultures comes responsibility. Religion and traditions etiquette is important. 
  • When visiting temples or sacred sites, always cover your shoulders and remove your shoes. Be wary of scammers and always agree on a fee before eating or using cabs.
  • Visiting Asia makes it mandatory to check the weather. It is better to pick the best suitable weather that serves the purpose. 
  • Make sure you double-check your visa requirements. Use any translation app. It helps connect to the local shopkeepers. Take the initiative and be specific about what you want. The conversation will be a lot smoother and more enjoyable for both of you. Avoid speaking in pidgin English.
  • People enjoy traveling to the Asian continent because the 24 speak English as a lingua franca
  • It is better to learn the local words and popular phrases in a different language to plan a successful visit to Asia. 
  • Familiarize with the local dialect to seek help in finding directions.
  • In Asia, travelers should have an obligation to be aware of their surroundings and to adapt to them.
  • Many countries in Asia have religious beliefs. Tourists should dress modestly when visiting any iconic holy place. 
  • While entering Temples, look around and take some ideas. In a mosque, women should cover their heads and hair. Covering heads and hair works for India as well. 
  • You should not participate in a religious ritual unless you are a practicing follower of that religion.
  • Be aware of what you are doing, and believe that participating would be vital to you. Different religions have different costumes in India. Research it and deal respectfully. 
  • Nonverbal communication provides visual cues that assist in locating essentials such as a restroom, food, drink, or a place to sleep.
  • It is helpful if you can read the signboards. It makes discovering instructions simple. Also, using translation apps for better understanding. 
  • When there is a communication gap between English and any Asian language, it is usually best to seek nonverbal communication advice from a native.
  • When a person’s body language is kind, nonverbal communication is successful. As a result, it is preferable to be courteous and modest while seeking assistance from locals when traveling.
  • One should carry a Phrasebook or Pocket Dictionary. It’s possible that relying on digital technology proved difficult. A small book in your backpack will boost your self-esteem and assist you in a problematic scenario.
  • Use a Local Speaking Guide to help you speak English and your native language. If you are stuck, one can help with translation and teach you a few things along the road.

5 Useful Apps to Help You Travel Across Asia

Let’s face the reality that apps have made international travel easier than ever. It has added so many modern conveniences to relieve the language barriers. Whenever you travel to a country, you need these apps to help you learn as you go. You can use these apps to translate by capturing photos to convert audio to the text within one click.

Traveling in an Asian country where people don’t communicate in English can be difficult. It is essential to have these apps on your phones in countries like China. The street signs aren’t in English in such countries, and access to Facebook and WhatsApp is non-existent. 

However, many valuable apps promise to help you travel across Asia. Travelers use these apps to translate the information about the destination or the buildings they will visit. These apps allow people to break through the language barrier. They can easily understand the details of local attractions and food outlets.

Download these five useful apps before your next trip to Asia. 

1. Google Translate

  • Google Translate can be used in two ways. One is by visiting its website and the other by downloading the application.
  • The Google Translate app is available for free for iOS and Android users.
  • To use Google Translate on a computer or laptop, you need to download the google translate extension.
  • The UI of this app is excellent as you can easily switch between two languages.
  • The camera translation feature of this app can translate the words in real-time by observing them.

2. Triplingo

  • TripLingo is more than just a translator.
  • It helps people reduce miscommunication and wrong steps while traveling to any Asian country.
  • Triplingo’s app offers language translation with several features, such as tip calculators, cultural notes, and safety equipment.
  • It offers instant voice and text translation features in 42 languages.
  • Triplingo has the smartest feature of receipt translation. It uses the phone’s camera to capture snapshots of slips and convert them to the user’s desired language.
  • It also offers a real-time translation feature for $3.50 per minute. It acts as a bridge to connect people in the communication of two different languages.
  • Many basic features of this app are available for free.
  • Some features require a premium subscription for $20 per month. These features include language lessons, custom phrasebooks, and a daily live translation.

3. Microsoft Translator

  • It quickly translates text, voice, conversations, photographs, and documents. 
  • People can also download more than 40 languages for translation offline.
  • Microsoft’s machine translation app also offers 39 languages for image to text translation.
  • The Voice translation feature is remarkable. People can easily use its split-screen feature for two participants having a bilingual conversation.
  • It offers a multi-person conversation translation feature. Up to 100 people across multiple languages can communicate at once.

4. iTranslate

  • iTranslate suits travelers, students, business executives, employers, and medical personnel who will be able to read, write, and talk in over 100 languages from anywhere on the planet.
  • In more than 100 languages, iTranslate text mode provides a cutting-edge experience with autocomplete and alternate translations.
  • Simply begin speaking, and iTranslate will identify your voice and translate it into the language of your choice. Offline versions are now available in four languages!
  • Instant translations are available directly on your chat app. You can communicate with people all across the globe using the iTranslate keyboard plugin.

5. Waygo 

  • It offers limited language translation, but it can hold you back during a trip. 
  • In countries like China, the Waygo app helps to tackle language barriers.
  • It can translate any character or photograph from your camera roll.
  • Waygo has a unique feature for food that offers up images of your translated text. 
  • You can use Waygo offline as well.
  • The basic features of this application start at USD 7.99.

Final Thoughts

Asian countries have a good command of English. The English language works with both perspectives.

Asian people accept English as a foreign language and an official language.

Asian countries use the English language as a second language. English proficiency in Asian countries is growing steadily. Countries are also investing heavily to improve English. 

Additional FAQs about English-speaking Asian Countries

How Many Countries in Asia Have English as their Official Language? 

Asia is the largest and most populous region on Earth. The current population of Asia is 4,699,344,013 for the year 2021. Asian regions have strong and subtle regional belief systems. 

English proficiency in Asian countries is increasing with time. Singapore ranks number 1 in Asia in the proficiency index in the world. About 372 million native speakers and a billion non-native speakers are fluent in the language.

 India has the highest quantity of English-speaking people. English-speaking population of India is 1,247,540,000. Yet, Singapore ranks 1st position, and the English-speaking population is 5,469,700. 

There are 24 Asian Countries that speak English.

Hong Kong, China
South Korea
Macau, China
Sri Lanka

Different countries have different local dialects added to the English language. Non-native speakers of English have the local tonal dialect in their speech. 

Do Asian Countries Learn English?

The Asian continent has accepted English as a Lingua Franca. Native English speakers in Asia are few. The people speak English as their official language and a foreign language. 

Ethnologue estimates that 460 million people speak English throughout Asia’s largest continent. Hence English learning increases in the Asian continent.

According to the EF English Proficiency Index, the world’s biggest survey of adult English proficiency among non-native speakers, Asia ranks second behind Europe among non-native English speakers.

English in Asian countries is a compulsory subject in schools. English has become the growth engine in Asia. Countries in Asia are heavily investing in English training. 

The English language builds the correlation between economic competitiveness and proficiency. It enhances the scope of educational institutions. 

English language training and marketing is a booming market. Asian countries have invested billions into English language learning and test preparation.

Is English Common in Asia? 

English is the outcome of some non-settler colonies. 

The English language is called the global language. It is the language of diversity management. It tries to bring uniformity of language. 

India and Pakistan stand in stark contrast to settler colonies such as the United States, Canada, and Australia. Asian heterogeneity is managed by uniformity over intercultural literacy but not standardized. 

Asian countries have both a second language and an international language. It’s crucial to remember that English has become a language simply because it’s becoming more culturally diverse.

English is the outcome of some non-settler colonies. 

The English language is called the global language. It is the language of diversity management. It tries to bring uniformity of language. 

India and Pakistan stand in stark contrast to settler colonies such as the United States, Canada, and Australia. Asian heterogeneity is managed by uniformity over intercultural literacy but not standardized. 

Asian countries have both a second language and an international language. It’s crucial to remember that English has become a language simply because it’s becoming more culturally diverse.

It is the international working language in the region. English communication in Asia is more flexible and liberal. Non-native speakers speaking English face linguistic problems because of their diverse ethnicity. 

Asian people also recognize English as a valuable language for job opportunities. Thus, Asian people speak English with a natural accent. 


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