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    Default Do non-native speakers outnumber native ones

    Are there any statistics that show that the number of people speaking English fluently as a foreign language is greater that the number of native speakers?

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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: Do non-native speakers outnumber native ones

    Quote Originally Posted by stefan_kar View Post
    Are there any statistics that show that the number of people speaking English fluently as a foreign language is greater that the number of native speakers?
    Yes, and by a long way. They're quoted, I think, in David Crystal's Stories of English. I think they came originally from a BC-sponsored book by David Graddol, called English Next.

    But it all rather depends of your definition of 'fluency'. (In modern academic work on foreign language learning, learners can be described as 'fluent' after only a few lessons; their language in a very limited sphere (like buying rail tickets) can be described as 'fluent' - the word doesn't mean 'error-free' or 'native-like'.

    b

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Do non-native speakers outnumber native ones

    That raises all sorts of questions, like defining 'fluently' and deciding what constitutes using it as a foreign language- are the people who migrate to an English speaking country using it as a foreign language? And then how would we classify speakers from countries like India, where there are millions of speakers, but few speak it as a first language and English is a co-official language. Does fluency have to include writing?

    David Crystal estimated that 80% of the speakers of English today are not native speakers, so there's plenty of room for non-native speakers to outnumber native speakers, but everything would depend on the definition of fluency.

    PS When I began answering, there was no reply, so I apologise for repeating a lot of what Bob said.

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    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Do non-native speakers outnumber native ones

    I once heard an American professor say during a casual meeting: "I knew the guy was a foreigner because his English was perfect." I agree with BobK that some people are fluent in a limited sphere,and there are other people - mostly academics - who speak fluent, gramatically correct, written English, in informal contexts. Foreign (older) academics moving to Sweden, upon having to start working fast they need to learn Swedish fast, and they do intensive Swedish courses and learn from textbooks, most of them adapted to their own proffession. Likewise there are foreign speakers of English who speak the language they've learned from books, with little contact with the colloquial spoken English. However, their English is impeccable. I wonder if they are fluent in English.

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