English-speaking Countries


English is the third most spoken native language worldwide, after Chinese and Hindi, with some 380 million speakers. It is the official language in 71 sovereign states and territories with the total population of 2,135 million people. Among them are the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa and many others. In the UK and the USA there is no law about the official language, and English is the official language there de facto. There are some countries, too, where English is the major language, that is, it is the native language of the overwhelming majority of the population; these countries include the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and some others. The two most important English-speaking countries are, of course, the UK and the USA. (a)The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is situated on the British Isles, off the northern coast of Europe. The British Isles consist of two large islands: Great Britain and Ireland, and about five thousand small islands. Their total area is about 244,000 square kilometers. The British Isles are separated from the Continent by the North Sea, the English Channel and the Strait of Dover. The western coast of the country is washed by the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea; the eastern coast is washed by the North Sea.
The population of the country is over 57 million people. The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast respectively. In everyday speech ‘Great Britain’ is used in the meaning of ‘the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. The country is also referred to as Britain, England or the UK. The capital of the UK is London, with the population of about 7.5 million people (about 13 million people in Greater London, that is London with the suburbs). The surface of the country varies very much. The north of Scotland is mountainous and is called Highlands. The south, which abounds in beautiful valleys and plains, is called Lowlands. The north of England is mountainous, while the eastern, central and south- eastern parts of England are a vast plain. Mountains are not very high, with Ben Nevis in Scotland as the highest mountain (1,343 m). There are a lot of rivers in the UK, but they are not very long. The Severn is the longest river, while the Thames is the deepest and the most important one. The mountains, the Atlantic Ocean and the warm waters of the Gulf Stream influence the climate of the British Isles which is mild the whole year round. The UK is a constitutional monarchy. This means that the country is governed by the Parliament and the Queen is Head of State. The legislative power in the country is exercised by the Houses of Parliament which consist of two chambers: the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Lords is composed of hereditary peers and peeresses. The members of the House of Commons are elected by people from the constituencies in the four parts of the country. The House of Commons is the real governing body of the country. The executive power is exercised by Prime Minister and his Cabinet. The government is usually formed by the political party which has the majority in the House of Commons. Prime Minister is the majority party leader appointed by the Queen. Prime Minister chooses a team of ministers; 20 of them form the Cabinet. The most important parties in the UK are the Conservative and the Labour Party. The judicial branch of the government is represented by the system of courts. There is no written Constitution in Great Britain, only precedents and traditions. The national flag of the country is Union Jack. The UK is a highly developed industrial and agrarian country. It produces and exports machinery, electronics, railroad equipment, aircraft, textile. One of the chief industries is shipbuilding. Though the country is not rich in mineral resources, it is one of the world’s leading economies. The country also must import about 40 % of its food supplies. Financial sector is the most important one in the economy of the country, 70 % of the country’s population work there. Britain’s most important agricultural products include wool and dairy products. The main industrial and commercial areas are cities. When I think about British people, I normally recollect two things: British national character and British holidays and traditions. The British are famous for being conservative, reserved, punctual, friendly to strangers and polite. They are famous for their love to compromise, too. I think some of these traits may be explained by the island location — for example, their conservatism, friendliness to strangers and politeness. Partially due to this location, the British Isles have not been invaded since the Norman Conquest in the 11th century, and the British people were not afraid of strangers. The influence of foreign lifestyles was very small, too, that is probably why they are conservative. The British have a lot of holidays and celebrations. Many of them are celebrated throughout the world because of their Christian origin. Christmas Day and Boxing Day, Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day), Good Friday and Easter are all Christian holidays, or are based on a combination of pagan and Christian traditions. Another group of British holidays include holidays celebrated in English-speaking countries — Mothering Sunday, April Fool’s Day, May Day, Hallowe’en, the New Year. British people are known to keep up a lot of traditions in their daily routines. For example, they prefer living in their own houses, they are fond of gardening, keeping pet animals, spending holidays on the seaside and playing cricket, darts and golf. They like going to pubs, being members of all sorts of clubs and having five o’clock tea. I believe the pub is the most peculiarly British tradition, as the pub is still the centre of social life in towns and city suburbs. Though television at home is a strong competitor in spending leisure time, many people still go to pubs to communicate with their neighbours and friends. Nevertheless, the importance of the pub as the centre of social life in a locality is decreasing.


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