Please suppose USA includes majority English speaking U.S. territories.

If I used the expression 'majority English speaking' out of the blue, would you instantly understand it meant US territories where a majority of the residents always speak English?

I've referred to this sentence used in a document of the Home Office of the UK:

Nationals of the countries listed below are considered to be from a majority English speaking country and automatically meet the English language requirement.

  • I would use "primarily English speaking" (AmE anyway). – user3169 Dec 25 '16 at 1:16

I think the phrase "Majority English-speaking" sounds awkward, mostly because "majority" is more often used as a noun. So it feels like the words are in the wrong order, and it's not clear what is meant. For example, "The English-speaking majority", does imply that the majority of people in that area speak English, but the focus is on this particular group and not on the area as a whole.

Without any context, if I read "Majority English speaking", I would think someone was trying to say "The English-speaking majority", which would be confusing.

Of course, since it appears in a UK government pamphlet, it's obviously used and meaningful to the people in and around the agency who published the document. But government officials often use jargon that makes perfect sense to them, but leaves the average person scratching his head.

As wordy as it may sound, it would have been better to say:

Countries where the majority of people speak English.


Countries where English is the dominant language.

  • Thanks, Nathan. I wanted to use that sentence in a survey to determine a respondent qualifies as a native speaker of English. So, it may be better if it's 'territories where a majority of residents speak English as their native language'??? (Note: The fifty States are mentioned before this sentence already) Wouldn't 'a majority' be better as this first appears here. – Sssamy Dec 24 '16 at 8:08
  • You should also be aware that they will phrase things differently in the UK than in the US. If you focus is mostly on the US, you might be better saying something like "English-speaking regions" which implies that English is the dominant language in those areas. – Andrew Dec 24 '16 at 15:44
  • Also be aware that "territory" can a specific meaning when talking about.a semi-independent part of a country. The 50 US states should be referred to as "States" because there are (currently) sixteen territories that are considered part of the US but aren't official states. – Andrew Dec 24 '16 at 15:48
  • I understood the phrase "majority English speaking" immediately in the way it was intended, but perhaps I have seen it in a government document before. Unless you are up against a very strict word count, it does no harm to rewrite the sentence in a more natural style that is more easily understood. I read "U.S. territories" as denoting a particular legal designation of some regions affiliated with the U.S.; that is, by "including" these territories we add places that are not states to a set that already includes all the states of the U.S. – David K Dec 24 '16 at 15:52
  • @DavidK I wanted to make clear that by itself the phrase "US Territories" is exclusionary -- it means the parts of the US other than the states. Government documents include such phrases as "States and Outlying Areas of the United States" to include the territories and the states. Sadly, many Americans might not know (or don't care) that places like Puerto Rico are part of the US, but that's a different topic for another time. – Andrew Dec 24 '16 at 16:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.