Moving abroad can be a challenging experience as you say goodbye to old friends and look for new ones in your adopted home, and for most Brits, the language barrier can be a major obstacle to potential emigration.
English may be the world’s lingua franca, but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able be able to get by speaking it in your new country.
In this article we’ll be going on a whistle-stop tour of the world, stopping by at the countries where language doesn’t need to be a barrier.
To start off, simply heading to the Republic of Ireland means you will find yourself in a country that has a majority English-speaking population.
Although Irish – or Gaelic – is the official national language, it is spoken only by a minority compared to a sizable English-speaking majority.
Road signs in Ireland are bilingual, so there’s really no hard linguistic barrier whatsoever for English-speaking expatriates.
Heading over to mainland Europe, the Netherlands is the next country where English is widely spoken.
Dutch is the national language of the Netherlands, and while a majority speak it, an estimated 90% or higher of the population also speak English to an extremely high level on the English Proficiency Index (EPI).
English is a compulsory subject in Dutch secondary schools and it is also commonly used in university education. In the capital, Amsterdam, it is widely considered possible to get by with only a smattering of Dutch (in conversation, at least).
Moving over to Scandinavia, other nations with a good grasp of English are Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
All three countries have high proportions of residents who speak English as a second language and, as with the Netherlands, their scores on the EPI index are impressively high.
English is taught in the educational systems of all three countries, although the national languages are still Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, respectively.
Venturing south into the Mediterranean, another option for English speakers is the island nation of Malta.
English has joint-official language status with Maltese on the islands, although there are slightly more Maltese speakers compared to those that know English.
The high proportion of English speakers is down to Malta’s former status as a British Crown Colony, with the language having stuck around since the country gained independence.
As a bonus entry for this section, Gibraltar is another easy option for an emigrating English-speaker, although technically it is a British Overseas Territory, and not a country.
Because of the territory’s tiny size and the close proximity with the Spanish border, however, it’s worth picking up some of the Spanish language before heading out to ensure smooth integration.
For the most part, North America contains some of the more familiar countries that come to mind when thinking of spoken English – the United States and Canada being the major ones.
While the US may have more Spanish speakers than Spain itself, English is still the official language. The only distinction to be aware of is that American English and Canadian English have a number of marked differences in vocabulary, so be sure to brush up on the differences between things like pants and trousers before heading out.
There is a notable linguistic exception to English in Canada’s eastern region of Québec, where French-speakers are in a sizable majority. This is a throwback to the colonial era, when France laid claim to the region that is modern-day Québec.
The French focus in the region doesn’t mean that English isn’t spoken in Québec, but it might be worth picking another region to move to if you were planning to emigrate to Canada and dodge language barriers.
There are much warmer English-speaking countries than Canada, however, as a number of Caribbean nations also claim English as their official language.
In a non-exhaustive list, these include Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. As with American English and Canadian English, there are specific variations of the language spoken in these countries, but for the most part British English should get you by without too many upsets.
There are also British Overseas Territories with notable populations of English speakers in the Caribbean; these are Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Montserrat.
Given the remoteness and small sizes of these islands, however, it’s worth preparing for relative isolation if you’re planning a move to the ‘cosier’ Caribbean English-speaking countries.
The continent-crossing continues in Asia, starting off with one of the world’s most populous countries, India.
As well as being home to over a billion people, India is a vast country with a wide range of languages being spoken in its various regions.
Hindi is the most widely spoken official language in India, but English also has official status as the language of business and bureaucracy, and is something of a unifier among India’s patchwork of languages.
While Hindi and English are both official national languages, the only Indian state that has English as its official language is Nagaland, found far in the northeast on the border with Myanmar.
India has a rank of ‘moderate’ on the English Proficiency Index, but other Asian entries on the list score much higher, with Singapore obtaining the coveted ‘very high’ proficiency level.
Like India, Singapore has a diverse mix of ethnicities and languages, but English is widely spoken among citizens there. Singapore has English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil as official languages, but bilingual residents often learn English as their secondary language.
This results in a great degree of crossover among English-speaking citizens and does much to break down language barriers.
Singapore also ranks highly on proficiency because of its focus on business development, which makes intelligibility in spoken English a necessity.
Heading east across the South China Sea is another good choice for the English-speaking monoglot – the archipelago nation of the Philippines, where around 90% of the population is estimated to speak English as a second language.
With an EPI ranking of ‘high’, the Philippines owes some of its English language proficiency to a previous occupation by the United States, which has left English as one of the country’s official languages (with Filipino).
Both languages are taught alongside each other in Philippine schools and while not all of the country is completely conversant in English, English signs and broadcasts are prevalent in the major cities.
Rounding off this world tour of countries where English is commonplace are two Oceanic nations, Australia and New Zealand.
English is, of course, the official language of both countries, although as with the US there are national variations in the vocabulary or entirely unique words, such as drongo and jandals (you’ll have to Google them).
The biggest obstacle for an English-speaking expat moving to Australia or New Zealand is more likely to be buying property, given that both countries have recently made efforts to try and cut down on foreign home ownership.
If you’ve settled on an English-speaking country to move to and want to take the next steps, keep an eye on the TorFX blog for more emigration tips and advice on how to save money when moving abroad.
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