Even though the English language is not the most spoken in the world when it comes to the number of native speakers (it falls behind Mandarin, Chinese and Spanish), it probably rises to the top of the ranking if we count the total number of speakers. Due to the globalization process that has occurred over the past century, English has become an almost universal language, being taught in dozens of countries and considered the official language of several international entities. So it’s fair to say that nowadays you have to know at least two languages, one of which must be English.

But it is the number of countries with English as an official language that might surprise you. You see, the British empire was one of the great colonizers in the history of the world, so it’s normal to have so many countries speaking their language. The same happened with the United States if you wonder.

Here are 7 surprising countries where English is a first language:

1. Belize

On the northeastern coast of Central America you’ll find Belize, a country with a vast history, cultural heritage, and natural beauty. These ingredients make it a destination that attracts many tourists throughout the year.

Although Spanish and Belizean Creole are almost as common as English, the latter is the official and primary language, spoken by approximately 63% of the population. The fact that there is no language barrier makes this destination even more attractive to American tourists. So it’s not surprising that more than half of Belize’s visitors come from the United States of America.

2. Guyana

Guyana is a country bordering Venezuela that is part of the Caribbean region due to the strong historical, cultural, and political relations with the rest of the countries that are part of that region.

If you’re wondering what Guyana’s official language is, well, you’ve guessed it: it’s English. In fact, from all the countries in South America, Guyana is the only one with English as the official language. This is because until recently, this country with just over 700,000 inhabitants was a British colony (it became independent in 1966). In addition to English, the majority of Guyanese people also speak Guyanese Creole, a creole language with deep English roots.

3. Nigeria

Throughout history, the great European empires focused on the African continent due to the abundance of valuable resources in its territories – such as gold, ivory, and salt. The exploitation and colonization of these territories have left persistent traces, particularly with regard to language and linguistic development. This is probably the main reason why so many African countries have English as an official language. And Nigeria is one of them.

Nigeria is the 7thmost populated country in the world, with more than 206 million inhabitants. With so many people scattered over around 923 000 km², it is not surprising that more than 500 languages are currently spoken in Nigeria. Despite all this linguistic diversity, English is the only official language, with Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo being the other national languages.

4. Ghana

Like most African countries, Ghana is also unknown to most tourists in the Western world. If you’re interested in exploring this continent, Ghana has many good reasons to be your first destination. First of all, it is considered safe for tourists, and it’s worth pointing out that safety is more often than not the reason why most people scratch African countries out of their list when it comes time to decide their vacation destination.

Ghana has lots of magnificent places to visit, including wonderful beaches, waterfalls, and natural parks. The nightlife is also long and varied, and there are lots of things to do when it comes to entertainment shows and cultural festivals. Lastly, since English is the official language of Ghana, you won’t have any trouble communicating with local people, which is fundamental if you want to truly know the culture of the country.

5. Kenya

Located on the eastern side of Africa, Kenya is the third-largest economy in the sub-Saharan region. It is one of the countries with the greatest development potential in the region.

Kenya is also a very interesting tourist destination, especially for people who like to observe and interact with wildlife. There are professional guides that can take you on amazing journeys to explore protected areas that were created to preserve wild animals. These are unique experiences that remain forever in the memory of those who go through them. English and Swahili are the two official languages. In total, there are 69 different languages spoken in Kenya.

6. Singapore

Many Asian countries officially speak English. Singapore is one of them. Besides English, the other official languages are Mandarin, Tamil, and Malay, with the latter being the national language.

This city-state consists of one main island (the Singapore Island) and 60 other small islets located at the southern side of the Malay Peninsula. Over the past few decades, Singapore has experienced great economic growth, which allowed it to develop rapidly and become the most advanced economy in Southeast Asia. Besides, the country has also been able to attract the interest of millions of tourists each year. The island resorts, historical and cultural landmarks, and nature sight-seeing are the three main points of interest.

7. India

The second-most populous country in the world (only behind China), with an extensive history and tremendous cultural richness.

The country has a linguistic diversity almost as great as Nigeria, with 447 native languages. However, Hindi and English are the only official ones. English is widely spoken in big urban centers like New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore, but not so much in rural areas. Keep that in mind if India is in your plans for a future visit in the near future. It should be noted that a great part of India lived under the rule of the British Empire for many years as it was one of its most valuable territorial assets.