English in the Commonwealth of Nations

The use of the English language in most current and former member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations was inherited from British colonisation. Mozambique, which joined the Commonwealth in 1996, is a special case: English is widely spoken there, despite it being a former Portuguese colony (though the port of Chinde was leased by Britain from 1891 to 1923). English is spoken as a first or second language in most of the Commonwealth. In a few countries such as Cyprus and Malaysia, it does not have official status but is widely used as a lingua franca.

Current Commonwealth members (dark blue), former members (orange), and British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies (light blue)

Many regions, notably Australia, Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean, have developed their own native varieties of the language.

Written English in the current and former Commonwealth generally favours British spelling as opposed to American, with some exceptions, particularly in Canada, where there are strong influences from neighbouring American English. Few Commonwealth countries besides Canada and Australia have produced their own variant English dictionaries and style guides, and may rely on those produced in other countries.

The report of the Inter-Governmental Group on Criteria for Commonwealth Membership states that English is a symbol of Commonwealth heritage and unity.[1]