• 20 -25% speak English as a native or second language. There are 300 million Chinese studying English and many more from India, Korea and the Arab world. ------- There are about 200 languages that have a million or more "native" speakers. Mandarin Chinese is the most common, being spoken by around 874,000,000 people as a native language. English is a distant third with approximately 341,000,000 native speakers. It has become the most useful language to learn for international travel and is now the de facto language of diplomacy. In 2001, the 189 member countries in the United Nations were asked what language they wish to use for communication with embassies from other countries. More than 120 chose English, 40 selected French, and 20 wanted to use Spanish. Those who wanted English to be the common language included all of the former Soviet republics, Viet Nam, and most of the Arab world. English is also the dominant language in electronic communication. About 75% of the world's mail, telexes, and cables are in English. Approximately 60% of the world's radio programs are in English. About 90% of all Internet traffic is as well. However, the percentage of Internet users who are not native English speakers is increasing rapidly, especially in Asia BTW - This is what Americans believe. :-) On average, adult Americans believe that just over half (52%) of the whole world's population speak English. The real number, according to The National Foreign Language Center in Washington DC, is probably closer to 20% at the most. Younger adults, and people without a college education, tend to believe the proportion of the world's people who speak English is even higher, well over 50%. But even very well educated and older people greatly overestimate the world's proportion of English speakers. Large minorities of both college graduates (43%) and those with post-graduate degrees (42%) believe that more than two out of five people worldwide speak English. Even though they greatly overestimate the number of people who speak English, most people believe it is important that, in the United States, people in business (80%), people in government (79%) and teachers (78%) speak a language other than English. Between 46% and 37% believe this is very important. However, the belief is most common among people with relatively low incomes; people with higher incomes are less likely to believe this. For example. 52% of the lowest income group (with household incomes of $7,500 or less) believe it is very important that people in business speak a language other than English. Only 28% of people with incomes of over $75,000 think it very important. Most adult Americans meet or interact with people who speak a language other than English either daily (34%) or often (21%). This experience is more common in some regions than others, and among younger people. Fully 52% of adults in the West and 36% in the East say they meet daily with people who speaks another language; compared to only 23% in the Midwest and 27% in the South. Fully 56% of people aged 18-24, and 43% of those aged 25-29 meet foreign-language speakers daily, compared to only 14% of people over 65. These findings, says David Maxwell, Director of the National Foreign Language Center, "highlight a fundamental disjunction in Americans’ perceptions and behaviors regarding language. That fact that Americans believe more than half the world speaks English helps explain our linguistic myopia, which is reflected in the relatively low interest in foreign language study in this country. At the same time, however, four of five Americans feel it is important that professionals in a variety of occupations be competent in languages other than English. Since very few high school graduates are able to speak a foreign language, and fewer than 8% of college students enroll in foreign language courses, it is evident that as a nation we are not producing professionals with the language skills most Americans feel are important."
  • not sure but its probably a lot of people

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