English Language
Strevens Model of English

Strevens Model of English

Shiken premium Upgrade Banner

The Worldwide Influence of English: An Examination of Strevens' World Map of English

The English language, widely considered as one of the most powerful and influential languages in the world, has taken on the role of a lingua franca - a common language adopted by individuals and nations speaking different languages. Its widespread use across various regions and nations has solidified this status.

Peter Strevens, a British academic, linguist, and educator, is highly regarded for his contributions to the study of world Englishes and their global influence. After studying languages and phonetics in Ghana, Strevens became a professor of applied linguistics and the chairman of the International Association for the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL), where he played a vital role in popularizing the concept of world Englishes and delving into its different models.

Known for his profound love for languages, Strevens co-founded the School of Applied Linguistics in Edinburgh and was a key figure in the development of Seaspeak, a specialized code used for maritime communication. He passed away at a language teachers' conference in Tokyo at the age of sixty-seven, leaving behind a significant legacy in the realm of world Englishes, notably his world map of English.

Strevens' concept of 'World Englishes' refers to localized variations of English that have emerged in regions heavily influenced by the United Kingdom or the United States. His world map of English, the oldest map illustrating the spread of the language, displays the impact of colonization on the diversification of English into various key branches, mainly British English and American English.

The map can be likened to a family tree, with 'English' as the main branch branching out into subcategories such as British English and American English. The first dispersal of English, also known as the spread to 'the New World,' occurred when Britain settled in North America during the 17th century and colonized other countries like Australia, New Zealand, and the Caribbean.

The second dispersal, marked by the colonization of Asian and African countries, gave rise to the creation of second-language varieties of English, known as the New Englishes. Despite gaining independence from the British Empire, many former colonies continue to use English as an official or governmental language, further solidifying its reach.

Strevens acknowledged the impact of colonization on the diversification of English, recognizing that subsequent variations stemming from the British/American split have distinct similarities to either British or American English. For instance, Canadian English, categorized under the American English branch, shares several similarities with American English, while ex-British colonies like India tend to use English that is more similar to standard British English.

In conclusion, Strevens advocated for an approach that embraces the various varieties of English in teaching and learning, highlighting the global significance of the language. His world map of English serves as a testament to the spread of English and its evolution into a truly universal language.

The English Language and Its Varieties Across the Globe

When we think of English, we often refer to it as the language spoken by native speakers in countries like the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. However, English as a language has evolved and expanded its reach far beyond these areas. In fact, "English" is an umbrella term that encompasses all its varieties, including dialects, sociolects, standard and non-standard forms, and English-based creoles. This term is also known as "World Englishes."

There are several models that map the spread of English globally. One of the earliest and most well-known models is the Strevens World Map of English, created by Peter Strevens. This model is a branching tree that shows how different varieties of English have originated from American and British English. Strevens believed that no variety of English was superior or inferior to any other and that English no longer belongs exclusively to native speakers. He also argued that localized varieties of English are more suitable for formal settings in countries outside of the UK and USA.

What are Englishes?

The term "Englishes" refers to all the language varieties that fall under the larger English umbrella, including dialects, sociolects, standard and non-standard forms, and English-based creoles.

Other Theories of World Englishes

Strevens' world map of English was not the only model developed to explain the spread of the language. Other essential models include Kachru's Three Circles and McArthur's Wheel Model.

Kachru's Three Circles of English

In 1985, Braj Kachru classified world Englishes using his "three circles" model. This model has three concentric circles, with each layer representing a different group of English speakers.

  • The Inner Circle - countries where English is primarily the first language of the majority of the population. This includes the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • The Outer Circle - countries where English holds official language status or institutional significance. This mainly consists of postcolonial territories like India, Singapore, and Kenya.
  • The Expanding Circle - countries where English is primarily used in foreign language contexts and has no permanent or official role. This includes China and Japan, where English has gained more significance, particularly as a business language.

Kachru's model depicts the type of spread, the pattern of acquisition, and the functional domains in which English is used across cultures and languages.

McArthur's Wheel Model of English

Similar to Kachru's three circles, Tom McArthur's wheel model (1987) also uses several levels of English in a concentric formation, but with some differences. McArthur's model has eight categories of English varieties, corresponding to geographical regions that share similar varieties of English.

  • Australian, New Zealand, and South Pacific Standard English
  • British and Irish Standard English
  • American Standard English
  • Canadian Standard English
  • Caribbean Standard English
  • West, East, and South(ern) African Standard(ising) English
  • South Asian Standard(ising) English
  • East Asian Standardising English

These categories branch out from the central point of the wheel labeled "World Standard English," with further sub-categories in the outermost layer representing more localized varieties of English.


  • Peter Strevens, New Orientations in the Teaching of English, 1977
  • Peter Strevens, Teaching English as an International Language, 1980
  • Braj Kachru, Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the Outer Circle, 1985
  • Andy Kirkpatrick, The Routledge Companion to English Studies, 2014
  • Tom McArthur, The English Languages?, English Today, 1987

The Global Influence of the English Language

The expansion of English refers to its widespread use in various parts of the world. It has become a lingua franca, facilitating communication between people who speak different languages. English is a vital part of the Expanding Circle, encompassing countries and regions where it is widely accepted and used, but not officially recognized.

The Origin of English's Global Use

The main reason for the widespread use of English is the period of colonization by Britain, during which the British Empire controlled almost a quarter of the world. This resulted in the language being introduced and adopted in many parts of the world, laying the foundation for its global dominance.

The Significance of English as a Lingua Franca

English has emerged as one of the most significant lingua francas, constantly growing in importance. It has become the language of international business, science, and technology, solidifying its global reach and impact.

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Explore More Subject Explanations

Try Shiken Premium
for Free

14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.
Get Started
Join 20,000+ learners worldwide.
The first 14 days are on us
96% of learners report x2 faster learning
Free hands-on onboarding & support
Cancel Anytime