I have heard there are more Chinese who speak English than there are Americans who speak English. Is this true?
Depends what you mean by "speaking English". There are reports that 250-300m Chinese people are learning English. However, that doesn't mean that they speak it fluently.
Just how many millions are there? China’s huge English-knowing population of 200–350 million is often cited as evidence of the language being nativized in the world’s most populous country. We may note, however, that the words user and learner are used interchangeably in reference to its speakers of English. When however the focus is on the nativization of English in China, a country in Kachru’s ‘Expanding Circle’ of Englishes, it is imperative to distinguish between users and learners of the language. Kachru points out that institutionalized varieties of English in Outer Circle countries have four functions: the instrumental, the regulative, the interpersonal, and the imaginative/innovative. For English to perform any such functions, there needs to be a large number of proficient bilingual users of the language – which seems not to be the case in China, where English is primarily learned in the classroom as a foreign language.
According to 2010 figures in Wikipedia (drawn from a variety of sources), the USA is top with India second, Nigeria third and the UK fourth. China is way down in 17th place.
- USA - 251,338,301 - 95.81% of the population (age 5+)
- India - 125,226,429 - 11.38% of the population (age 5+)
- China - 10,000,000 - 0.83% of the population (age 5+)
There is a note that the 10 million figure for China is being used because:
The oft-cited figure of 300 million is for "learners."
Which it distinguishes from those who are fluent.
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protected by Community♦ Jun 22 '13 at 9:06
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