Why it’s OK if you don’t speak the Queen’s English

The Lingua Franca
Why it’s OK if you don’t speak the Queen’s English

For professionals who were not born into an international mother tongue, mastering the English language is one of the top priorities. According to World Economic Forum, English is the world’s most widely spoken language: approximately 1.5 billion people speak English, but less than 400 million use it as a first language.

This means that more than a billion persons use an acquired language; a language that they have maybe not fully mastered or they do not feel completely comfortable with, or that are unable to fully grasp all undertones and connotations.

And some maybe feel badly about their imperfections or shortcomings.


It is not uncommon to hear native speakers getting upset over others’ bad English; over wrong pronunciations, heavy accents, grammar mistakes.

Even publicly on LinkedIn, English native professional blame companies for not using natives to write their English speaking ads; informing them about what they are missing; explaining the advantages of using a native speaker; pointing out the mistakes.



But this is why they are wrong:

  • The English we all speak is not their native language: it is our lingua franca, a common communication platform for all nationalities wishing to communicate
  • despite our mistakes, our cultural differences and our big or small misunderstandings, we are happy with the upside of communicating among ourselves, we the non-native English speakers; that we can be heard by a bigger audience, we can read more texts and listen to more podcasts; share our ideas and infuse more diversity into the language
  • it takes lots of effort, constant work and courage to learn another language; to use it at work knowing you are not perfect; to make yourself vulnerable. And we dare to do it anyway!

This is why any person who has ‘artificially’ learned one (or two, or three) foreign languages to any level must be proud of their achievement!



English as a lingua franca (ELF) is the use of the English language as a global means of inter-community communication and can be understood as any use of English among speakers of different first languages for whom English is the communicative medium of choice and often the only option. ELF is defined functionally by its use in intercultural communication rather than formally by its reference to native-speaker norms.

Lingua francas have developed around the world throughout human history, sometimes for commercial reasons (so-called “trade languages” facilitated trade), but also for cultural, religious, diplomatic and administrative convenience, and as a means of exchanging information between scientists and other scholars of different nationalities – Latin and Greek were for instance the lingua francas of the Roman Empire and the Hellenistic culture.

English as a second or foreign language on the other hand aims at meeting native speaker norms and gives prominence to native speaker cultural aspects.



According to EF English Proficiency Index 2020, the best countries globally in English Proficiency are:

  1. Netherlands
  2. Denmark
  3. Finland
  4. Sweden
  5. Norway
  6. Austria
  7. Portugal
  8. Germany
  9. Belgium
  10. Singapore
  11. Luxembourg
  12. South Africa

Definitely not, but the U.K. might be… According to the British Council and the European Commission, British are officially the worst language learners in Europe:

  • 62% of people surveyed can’t speak any other language apart from English.
  • 38% of Britons speak at least one foreign language, 18% speak two and only 6% of the population speak three or more.

The European Union average showed that 56% speak at least one foreign language, 28% speak at least two and 11% speak three or more. The survey confirmed that English was the most widely-spoken foreign language. 51% of EU citizens can have a conversation in English.

In the European Union, the use of English as a lingua franca has led researchers to investigate whether a new dialect of English (Euro English) has emerged.

Dimitra Letsa

Dimitra Letsa

[email protected]

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