English is spoken as a second or foreign language by an estimated 950 million people worldwide (Saville-Troike, 2006). This is in addition to the 427 million native speakers of English. But how did the English language reach the stage where it is used and understood, to a greater or lesser extent, by more than 1 in 7 of the world’s population?
The first stage of the global spread of the English language was the result of the empire building of Britain, otherwise known as imperialism. The second stage was the result of the cultural, political and economic preeminence of the USA, otherwise known as neo-imperialism.