October 28

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Countries That Speak English as a Second Language

By Gordon Gaffney

October 28, 2021


Countries That Speak English as a Second Language

The English language is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. With nearly 400 million native speakers, according to David Crystal's 2006 book "English Worldwide," and an additional 500 million who speak it as a second language.

English is behind only Spanish and Mandarin in the world's most spoken languages. Furthermore, it is called the “universal language” by many as it is used as an intermediary language for people who speak different languages.

It also has a strong presence in the business world, used to close deals between companies and institutions. 

But why are there so many speakers of English around the world?

• One of the factors is colonisation by countries that originally spoke this language.

• Another is the question of opportunities: in developing countries that do not have English as their native language, people who speak English earn more than other people.

This is due to the capitalist dominance of the Western world and its influence on businesses in smaller countries. 

British colonisation around the world

At its height, the British Empire was the largest empire in history and it was also the greatest power in the world.

Without going too far back, let's look at the situation of this empire in the last century: in 1920, the British Empire ruled over about 458 million people (a quarter of the world’s population at the time) and 35,500,000 square kilometers (24% of the planet).

Due to this dominance, its legacy, both political and also cultural and linguistic, is widespread.

Proof of this is that there are English-speaking countries spread across the globe.
From North America to Africa and from Europe to Asia. With the end of World War II and the partition of Africa, the British Empire underwent a process of decolonisation.

Finally, in 1997, the British Empire came to an end, but its legacy is undeniable.

In fact, due to all this legacy and as proof of the impact left on the world by this Empire, there is a term designating all English-speaking countries around the world: Anglophone.

Countries that speak English as a second language

• Cameroon (Africa)

• India (Asia)

• Lesotho (Africa) 

• Mali (Africa) 

• Malta (Europe)

• Namibia (Africa)

• Nauru (Africa)

• Philippines (Asia)

• Singapore (Asia)

• South Africa (Africa)

• Swaziland (Africa)

• Tanzania (Africa)

• Tonga (Africa)

• Western Samoa (Oceania) 

Of these countries, let's talk about some of the most well-known and sought after by Brazilians: Singapore, South Africa and Malta.

If you are planning to study English in one of these countries, it is a good idea to improve your English as much as possible before you leave. Our eBook "Eliminate the 63 Most Common Mistakes Portuguese Speakers Make in English" will help you.

Available in English and Portuguese, it is only €6.99 and you can read more about it here. 

Now, if your goal is to increase your immersion in English, we have an article coming very soon.

Countries that speak English as a second language: SINGAPORE

Singapore is an Asian country located in the lower part of the peninsula of Malaysia. It is a small territory and has about 6 million inhabitants.

With a GDP(Gross Domestic Product) of 446 billion dollars, Singapore is one of the richest countries in the world, only behind Qatar, Luxembourg and Macau, based on the purchasing power of its inhabitants.

The average annual earnings (GDP per capita) of someone living in Singapore is in the range of USD82,000. For a little comparison, the US is USD63,000, while Brazil's is USD9,000.

For Brazilians, the good news is that visas are not required in this country if you are a tourist and are going to stay for 30 days. For those who want to be a student or work there, a visa is required.

But if you have concrete reasons for the government to legalise you then the process does not take too long. 

Countries That Speak English as a Second Language

As it is a very rich country, the cost of living there is a little high. If you intend to live there, then you must be willing to spend quite a lot of money on everyday things, such as clothes and food.

Cars are also pretty expensive there. By comparison, a Golf 1.4 in Singapore costs around US$90,000, while in Brazil it costs less than US$20,000.

However public transport is excellent and is great value for money.

One of the things Brazilians complain about Singapore is that it can be difficult to mix with the local population.

There are several schools with international curricula from France, China and the UK where children will have access to first-rate education in addition to being able to learn other languages. 

Safety in Singapore

Unlike Brazil, Singapore is an extremely safe country. It is also famous for its strict laws and low crime rate. It is known as the “city of fines” because of the amount of fines that are applied there.

Despite this, you can walk on the streets at any time without worrying about robberies or things like that, and the country has a lot of security cameras.

For those traveling from Brazil, the weather is not a problem either. Its annual temperatures ranging from 25 to 35 degrees Celsius and because it is located near the equator it also has a lot of thunderstorms, so overall it is very similar to many parts of Brazil.

Countries That Speak English as a Second Language

Some good news for foreigners (but not so good for local authorities) is that 40% of people living in Singapore are foreigners. This makes coexistence easier and also gives the country a great multiculturalism.

This is one of the reasons there are so many international schools there. All these factors make living in this country easier and give it a lot of diversity.

With such multiculturalism in such a small territory, it's not difficult to get used to life in Singapore and it is rare to find someone who speaks only one language.

Countries that speak English as a second language: SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa is a dream destination for many travelers around the world because of its natural beauty and wildlife. However, it's not a bed of roses, this country is one of the most unequal in the world. 

Countries That Speak English as a Second Language

Geographically, South Africa is a very interesting country. Although the most populous city is Johannesburg, it has three distinct capitals: Pretoria (executive capital), Cape Town (legislative capital) and Bloemfontein (judicial capital).

Furthermore, another interesting fact is that it encompasses the country of Lesotho, an enclave completely surrounded by South African lands. 

This country is very popular with students who want to learn English. Several exchange agencies take young Brazilians every year to spend time learning English there.

One advantage is that the Brazilian Real is worth more than the South African Rand. Due to this advantage in currency conversion, the cost for Brazilians is more attractive.

After conversion, the costs of housing, food and basic goods are very similar in both countries.

Another factor that makes this student exchange program very attractive is the legal documents required. Due to the close relationship of the two governments, Brazilians can stay for up to three months in South Africa without needing a visa.

Because of this many people end up taking advantage of this big time window to stay there and learn English.

Despite it being a very popular tourist destination, South Africa has a problem: safety.

Even today South Africa is still dealing with the consequences of Apartheid, its system of racial segregation. There are many places called townships that resemble favelas in Brazil and they have many problems due to social inequality, but they are usually located far from urban centers. 

For tourists there is not much problem in this regard. In most urban centers it is quite safe to walk on the street.

Countries That Speak English as a Second Language

Little Brazil, Cape Town

For those of you who are Brazilian, you can be sure that you will not leave without finding someone else speaking Portuguese. There are communities of Brazilians throughout South Africa. One of the most famous is “Little Brazil” in Cape Town.

As well as this it's not difficult to find Brazilian restaurants and bars. But in case you need to communicate with non-Portuguese speakers, you can find out exactly how to learn the English language completely from scratch by yourself in an article coming very soon.

Countries that speak English as a second language: MALTA

Countries That Speak English as a Second Language

The last country we are going to talk about is Malta, a small European island country that has around 450,000 inhabitants.

The island of Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea and became independent from the United Kingdom in 1964, however, it only entered the European Union in 2004. Malta is a popular destination for people from all over the world to do a language exchange and learn English.

Many Brazilians go there to spend time and learn a new language while also venturing into Europe. This country also does not require a visa for Brazilian students who study and they can stay up to three months. All you need is your passport and you are ready to enter. 

Malta Cost of Living

Although the cost of living in Malta is much higher compared to Brazil, if you plan to study there, the prices are not that bad. Malta, compared to other countries in Europe, has lower costs for students.

That means that in general the student does not spend much on study and instead spends more of their money on things such as food, clothing and necessary items.

If you're going to Malta, don't worry about entertainment. Malta is a country of unique natural beauty and has incredible beaches. You can also relax about the weather. It is very hot, and so those who live in Brazil won't need to make an effort to get used to it.

Another advantage is that Malta has cheap flights to other European countries. You can fly to Rome or Athens for a weekend, for example, sometimes for as little as around €50 or around R$300, Brazilian reais.

For comparison, a flight from São Paulo to Rome costs around 3000 reais. 12 times more! Check out Ryanair or Easyjet for cheap flights in Europe, though there are other low cost airlines too.

Something you don't need to worry about in Malta is personal safety. In a recent survey, Malta is first in the list of safest countries in Europe. Malta also appears in 2nd place among countries with the least violent crime in Europe.

Keep in mind that in Europe there are model countries in public safety, such as Norway, Switzerland and Finland. 

Countries That Speak English as a Second Language

Although only a few Brazilians live permanently in Malta, thousands go to there every year for an exchange program, and therefore, they do not fit into the category of permanent residents.

Other nationalities have many more representatives on the island, this includes refugees. Libya, for example, which has had a civil war in recent years is the most represented nationality there. Serbs, Filipinos and Britons also migrate there. 

Malta's Public Transport

Something that a lot of people complain about there is public transport. In summer, the tourist season, there is not enough buses for everyone. This means there can be delays and the buses are often full.

In winter, with fewer people, they reduce their bus fleets and the time between buses is very long.

Malta also has a lively nightlife. Students from all over the world meet in bars and clubs, and they can be especially busy on weekends.

Malta is the perfect combination: beach by day and party by night! 

Four More English-Speaking Countries in Africa

Africa is a diverse continent with fifty countries of very different cultures many of which suffer from poverty. But it's also a continent full of opportunities for people who want affordable travel with low living costs and a chance to experience new cultures while learning English.

Because it's so big and so diverse, it can be hard to choose a place in Africa that suits you best.

To help you in this process, we've prepared a guide to introduce you to four more English-speaking African countries.

These countries can provide a comfortable and unique experience for a person who wants to learn English.

English Speaking Countries in Africa: KENYA

Kenya is considered the “cradle of humankind” and has many exotic natural locations to see and it also has a climate that many Brazilians are already used to.

It is a great place for hiking, safaris and nature excursions. The people of Kenya are friendly and are known for their great smiles. The culinary culture is not very different from the Brazilian one, and several foods from Brazilian daily life are present there, for example rice, beans, corn, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage.

Kenya's two official languages are English and Kiswahili, with most English speakers located in urban centers. In rural areas it is less common to have bilingual citizens.

Kenyan English is British English, which can be interesting for anyone wanting to learn this particular language variant. In addition, there are also several variants of English and Kiswahili in communities across the country, providing a wide variety of language experiences.  

Countries That Speak English as a Second Language

Kenya's largest city and capital is Nairobi. It is the third largest city on the continent and is a wonderful place to visit and to meet all kinds of people. If you feel most comfortable in big cities then this is the place for you.

To enter Kenya a visa is required. However, the Kenyan government is very strict about granting work visas, as the unemployment rate there is 40%. Finding a job will not be easy, especially considering some of the ethnic problems present in the country.

Also, the cost of living there is high, so it's not a good option for those on a smaller budget. Kenya's currency is the Kenyan Shilling, and 1 Brazilian real is equivalent to about 20 Kenyan shillings on the day this text was written October 19th 2021.

Below are some of the costs of everyday things in Kenya, in Real: 

McDonalds meal: R$34 

Dinner for two at a restaurant: R$160

Dozen eggs: R$8.50 Bus ticket: R$4

Electricity, water, etc. in an 85m² apartment: R$219

Rent a one bedroom apartment in the city centre: R$1,551

Rent a one-bedroom apartment away from the centre: R$770

Kenya is home to huge communities from all over the world, including Brazilians. To discover English courses in Kenya, visit this site here.
And for more information about traveling to Kenya, check out this page.

English Speaking Countries in Africa: NIGERIA

One of Africa's giants, Nigeria is one of the largest countries on the continent, with nearly 200 million inhabitants. It is a country of incredible natural beauty, with savannas, beaches and beautiful forests, and with diverse culture and people.

If you like happy people, music, and spicy food, then you are in the right place. The official language of the country is English, and it is also the most used language, which is an attraction for people who are going to the country looking to experience the English language in their daily lives.

There are also other languages spoken there, such as Naijá, which is a mixture of Creole and English, but the only official one is English, unlike other countries in Africa that may have other official languages.  

Countries That Speak English as a Second Language

Economically, Nigeria is a developing country, as is Brazil. In fact, the cost of living there is relatively similar to what Brazilian people are used to, the main difference being the price of rent, which is quite high: on average 270% higher than the rent found in Brazil.

The price of rent varies depending on the city, with the main cities such as Lagos and the capital Abuja being the most expensive.

There is also difficulty in finding some items in the markets and supermarkets, such as quality meats, though this depends on the region. Also some items that are normally consumed in Brazil may not be common there.

The country's currency is the Nigerian Naira. One Brazilian real at the time this article was written on October 19th 2021 was 73 Nairas (NGN).

Here are some prices for everyday things in Nigeria, in Brazilian real:

Meal at McDonalds: R$28 

Dinner for two at a restaurant: R$114

Dozen eggs: R$7

Bus ticket: R$3 

Electricity, water, etc. in an 85m² apartment: R$118

Rent a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre: R$4,000

Rent a one-bedroom apartment away from the centre: R$2,775

Whether traveling for business or tourism, a visa is required to travel to Nigeria.

The unemployment rate in the country is 27%, more than double that of Brazil, so it is advisable to go there for tourism instead of work.

There is a strong community of Brazilians in Nigeria that can be found on Facebook groups, especially in big cities like Lagos, so you will have good company on your trip!

In Nigeria, there are many English schools spread around the country, you can look at Language Skill Development & Consulting.

This site offers a list of English language schools, organized by cities, in Nigeria.

More information about travel to Nigeria can be found here.

English Speaking Countries in Africa: MALAWI 

Malawi is known as the “warm heart of Africa” for the affectionate way in which the locals treat tourists there, they are always willing to help.

Lilongwe, its capital, is a beautiful city that is divided into Old Town and New Town, and between the two there are several hiking trails where you can see different species of birds, crocodiles, and various mammals.

The huge Lake Malawi is famous for its beauty and for the native tribes that live near it. May to November is the best time to visit as the climate will be drier, the landscapes greener, and the temperature cooler.

Countries That Speak English as a Second Language

The official languages of Malawi are English and Chichewa. Despite this, only 26% of people aged 14 and over can speak English, so it may be more difficult to find opportunities to speak the language.

Getting to know a group of people who speak the Chichewa language and travelling with them can help you discover the country and all its attractions.

Malawi Kwacha is the local currency, and each Brazilian real is equivalent to 145 of those, and 1 Euro is 950 on October 19th 2021.

Here are some prices you can find, on average, in the country:

Meal at McDonalds: R$38 

Dinner for two at a restaurant: R$216

Dozen eggs: R$10

Bus ticket: R$3.60

Electricity, water, etc. in an 85m² apartment: R$365

Rent a one bedroom apartment in the city centre: R$2,325

Rent a one-bedroom apartment away from the centre: R$1,615

English Speaking Countries in Africa: GHANA 

Ghana is West Africa's golden child, and it is a country that is enjoying tremendous growth in recent years due to its stable democracy.

It is a peaceful country, although “Ghana” means “warrior”. Accra, its capital, is home to 4 million people, and can be considered the heart of Ghana. It has many places to visit, and there are many areas of natural beauty outside the capital. Accra is also your best chance to find Brazilians in the country.

The country's official language is English, and more than a third of the population speaks it, with non-English speakers generally located in rural areas.

If you stay in the city, you'll probably find plenty of opportunity to practice the language with the natives. 

Countries That Speak English as a Second Language

A visa is required for tourism and work in Ghana. Unemployment has gone down a lot in recent years, and since it's a growing country, it's possible that you'll find somewhere to work while you spend time there.

You can only take up to five thousand US dollars into the country, so keep this in mind when planning a longer trip.

The official currency of Ghana is the cedi, and it is roughly the same as the real.

Here are some prices you might find in Ghana:

Meal at McDonalds: R$40 

Dinner for two at a restaurant: R$188

Dozen eggs: R$10

Bus ticket: R$3.75

Electricity, water, etc. in an 85m² apartment: R$415

Rent a one bedroom apartment in the city centre: R$3,488

Rent a one bedroom apartment away from the centre: R$794

Of the Ghanaian English schools, one that stands out is the Ace School of Languages, which has won awards making it one of the best schools in Ghana to learn English. Other schools can be found through this website.
More information about travel to Ghana can be found here.

Top tips for any of these African countries that speak English

Always bring the local currency or US dollars. In most countries there is no exchange of Brazilian real.

Buy a round-trip/return ticket, as in general you are not allowed to enter a country without a round trip/return ticket.

Keep your vaccines up to date! Different environments have diseases that are perhaps not common in Brazil.

Many countries discussed in this guide have crime levels comparable to Brazil's, and have their own political and organised crime problems.

Brazilians traveling abroad must exercise the same care they exercise in Brazil, taking into account the unique features of each country.

More information can be found on the Consular Portal links present in the text.

As much as the reality of people in each of these countries is similar to that of Brazilians, these countries have different cultures and unique laws. Inform yourself before traveling to any of them!

If you have problems while in the country, then it is recommended that you contact the respective Brazilian embassy in each country.

No matter where you decide to learn English, enjoy the unique experience that each country provides and try to immerse yourself in the culture, people, and language.

Have a good trip!

If you are curious, you can read about the influence of the English language in Brazil.

You can read why English is an international language here and discover here about how to learn English from scratch.

You might also be interested in our video course on sale on Udemy for €29.99/69.99R$ "Eliminate the Mistakes that Portuguese Speakers Make in English". 4 hours of video exclusively for people that speak Portuguese. You can read more about it and watch free videos here.


Would you live in any of these countries? Where would you choose to do an exchange? Tell us in the comments!

Gordon Gaffney

About the author

Gordon is The Irish English Teacher, creator of this blog and many products to help all students learning English as a second language, but with a focus on Portuguese speakers.

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