10 Lesser-Known World Englishes That Are Interesting to Know

English is one of the world’s most widely spoken languages, with about 1.35 billion using it. It’s also an official language in 58 states and 31 territories. English is also a working language of government, academia, and business in 15 more countries, even though it’s not an official or national language in those states. Despite having no official status, English is the predominant language of four countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

When discussing varieties of English or world Englishes, we often think of the big ones like American English, Canadian English, British English, and Australian English. But other than those dialects, many different varieties of English exist worldwide that are also worth learning about. In this Ghoti English article, we’ll look at ten world Englishes you might not have heard of but are interesting to know.

Irish English

Ireland, or at least the southern part that constitutes the Republic of Ireland, used to be a part of the United Kingdom for over 700 years. English became a well-established institution in the European nation, as it became the language of education and employment. This long-standing history of British rule eventually paved the way for the creation of Irish English, also called Hiberno-English (from Hibernia, the Latin name for Ireland).

A vast majority of Irish people are monolingual English speakers, with around 95% being fluent in the language, compared to just 3% of the population that can speak Irish (also called Gaelic). English is also the second official language of Ireland, and it’s also the country’s de facto working language.

While English is a predominant language in Ireland, many English speakers simultaneously find Irish English fascinating and confusing. Ireland developed its variety of English with influences from the Irish language, along with a unique vocabulary and phonological features no longer present in British or American English. 

Some of the words used in Irish English include give out (meaning to scold or complain), eejit (meaning idiot), and of course, it wouldn’t be Ireland without the craic (meaning fun or entertainment).

African-American Vernacular English (AAVE)

Considering how influential black American culture is worldwide, it may be surprising to see African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) or Ebonics on this list. But most people, especially those not exposed to this English dialect, tend to see AAVE as either “broken” or “incorrect” English, which is not the case. 

Instead, African-American Vernacular English is its variety of English, with its vocabulary, grammatical structure, and rules on pronunciation. 

The influence of AAVE on World Englishes cannot be understated. We often use a lot of words from AAVE, such as diss, lit, fire, beef, finna, turn up, and finesse, as well as phrases like no cap, got receipt(s), spill the tea, keep it a hundred/hunnid, and the fabulous yaaaas. 

But even though mainstream English has borrowed a lot from African-American Vernacular English, AAVE speakers still experience discrimination in the United States and other countries. 

Indian English

Aside from AAVE, Indian English is another English dialect that has been largely overlooked by most English speakers and learners, even though India has about 200 million English speakers. That’s more than other English-speaking countries, like Canada, Australia, and its former colonizer, the United Kingdom. 

English is widely used in academic, business, and government settings in India and is one of the country’s 22 official languages. It also serves as a lingua franca between other ethnicities and speakers of other languages in the country. 

English has primarily influenced India and vice versa, with Indian-origin languages such as yoga, bungalow, mogul, cashmere, and juggernaut entering mainstream English vocabulary. On the other hand, Indian English has its own unique set of vocabulary that covers different aspects of life, such as family (e.g., cousin sister), society (e.g., scheduled caste), and law (e.g., first information report). 

Indian English is also known for incorporating the Indian numbering system, which includes numbers like lakh (100,000) and crore (10,000,000).

Jamaican English

Wha gwan, my yute?

If you’ve heard this phrase before, chances are you’ve been familiar with Jamaican English and its unique vocabulary. Jamaica gave the world reggae, Bob Marley, Rastafarianism, and those hot but delicious Jamaican patties. 

But this beautiful Caribbean island nation also gave us its fascinating English dialect that is just as pleasant to hear as its music. 

Jamaican English is closely intertwined with Jamaican Patois, an English-based creole widely spoken on the island. But it’s vital to note that these two, while related, are languages on their own. 

Nevertheless, the influence of Jamaican Patois in Jamaican English is apparent, such as using phrases like weh yuh ah seh, which means how are you doing, and ya mon, which roughly translates to no problem or okay. 

Philippine English

While the Philippines, a former Spanish colony, was first exposed to the English language when the British occupied Manila from 1762 until 1764 during the Seven Years’ War, its use became widespread when the Americans colonized the Philippines after the Spanish-American War and established its public education system. 

American English became one of the most enduring influences of American imperialism in the Philippines, which is why Philippine English may seem to have that American “twang” to it.

Like how British English helped develop Indian, Singaporean, and Malaysian English, American English significantly influenced Philippine English. But that doesn’t mean Philippine English is just a variant of American English. 

Instead, it possesses a unique set of vocabulary, such as jeepney (a popular form of transportation in the Philippines repurposed from World War II-era army jeeps), high blood (to be angry or agitated), salvage (to kill or execute someone extrajudicially), and comfort room. This word means restroom or bathroom, and it was used before in American English but has since fallen out of fashion in the United States.

Singaporean English

Speaking of Singapore, this South East-Asian city-state is well-known for many things, such as the Merlion, the Singapore Grand Prix, having a multicultural society, and its history of transforming from a Third World to a First World country within a generation. 

But aside from its touristy spots and stable business environment, another aspect of Singaporean life that deserves recognition is its dialect of English, also called Singaporean English.

While Singaporean English is connected to Singlish, an English-based creole language widely spoken in the city-state, they are different from one another, despite efforts from the government to promote “standard English” and discourage the use of Singlish. 

The most famous aspect of Singaporean English and Singlish is its use of short words like lah or siah to add emphasis to a sentence or express affirmation, exclamation, or dismissal, depending on the context. 

Malaysian English

Like Singapore, Malaysia also has a history with the English language, thanks to their shared ties as former British colonies. But as these two sibling nations gained independence and went different ways, so did their English varieties. 

However, Singaporean and Malaysian English still share some similarities, including the use of the word “lah” at the end of each sentence. 

Yet despite these similarities with Singaporean English, Malaysian English is a regional English dialect of its own, with its own set of vocabulary and rules on pronunciation. Some words mainly used in Malaysian English include medical certificate (sick note), remisier (stockbroker), shophouse (workhouse), and the delicious chicken rice, which often refers to the Hainanese chicken rice, a dish originating from Hainan that is popular in both Malaysia and Singapore.  

Euro English

Although English is widely spread in Asia, North America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Oceania, it also has a foothold in Europe, where countries such as Ireland, Malta, and the United Kingdom use it as an official language. 

English is also one of the three main working languages of the European Union, alongside French and German. English is also widely spoken in countries like Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Belgium. 

While different regional varieties of English are typically used in everyday life, Euro English is unique because it’s usually confined within the halls of the European Union, the Erasmus Programme, and other EU-related programs and bureaucratic settings. 

Euro English uses words differently from standard English, such as the words delay (deadline), actor (someone or something involved in an action or event), cabinet (private office), and actual (current).

South African English

English was first spoken in what is now South Africa during the late 18th century when the British Empire first created the Cape Colony. However, the British found themselves in conflict with the indigenous African tribes and the Dutch settlers, who established their presence in the area in the mid-17th century.

This long, complicated history of colonialism and Apartheid in the 20th century eventually helped South African English develop into its variety of English today.

South African English is highly influenced by the country’s multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial, and multilingual settings. It borrowed lots of words from languages like Zulu (gogo for grandmother and indaba for conference or meeting), Xhosa (babbelas for hangover), Sesotho (lapa for patio), and Afrikaans (braai for barbecue and lekker meaning delicious but can also mean good or excellent).

Nigerian English

Nigeria is the largest English-speaking country in Africa and one of the biggest English-speaking nations in the world, with about 53% of its population (or around 100 million people) able to speak the language. While this West African nation has a vast English-speaking population, its English dialect is not as well-known as it should be. 

Yet the rise of Nigerian content creators such as Mark Angel Comedy is starting to change this, and many people outside Nigeria are beginning to get exposed to Nigerian English through the Internet.

Like many dialects of English, Nigerian English also has its distinct accent, vocabulary, and grammar influenced by the country’s indigenous languages, such as Hausa and Yoruba. Some Nigerian English words include barbing salon (barber’s shop), put to bed (to give birth), qualitative (high or excellent quality), and next tomorrow, which refers to the day after tomorrow. 

English as a Diverse, Global Language

So many other World Englishes were not covered on this list, such as Kenyan English, Fijian English, Pakistani English, Egyptian English, and other varieties of Caribbean English. But the existence of different regional varieties of English worldwide demonstrates how English is widely spoken in different parts of the world, with every continent on the planet having at least one English-speaking country. 

And as several English-speaking countries continue to expand or maintain their influence worldwide, the number of World Englishes will only grow. Who knows? We might even see other English varieties in countries not colonized by the British Empire or influenced by the United States, like Japanese or Argentinian English. Only time can tell.

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