As part of my role as social media consultant for the British Council's English Innovation team, I've just been involved in an interesting discussion about how many learners of English it's possible for the British Council to reach online.
I thought it would be interesting to share my thoughts about this with people here, as I'm be particularly interested in finding out from people if my thinking about this is completely off, or if I'm making a reasonable guestimate.
So, here it is:
David Graddol estimated the figure of 1 billion 'learners' of English in English Next (2006), saying it would increase to 2 billion in 10-15 years.
The figure of 1,000,000,000 is interesting. The total population of the world is currently 6,894,200,000 (US Census Bureau). So that means an estimated 14.5% of the world is learning English.
When you look for estimated figures for 'speakers' of English, you find the following figures:
- 371,000,000 people 'native speakers' of English
- 760,000,000 people are 'speakers' (native or second language speakers), which is 11% world population (via Wolfram Alpha), so there are more people learning English than there are who speak it.
As a side-note this makes me wonder...
- When does a 'learner' of English become a 'speaker' of English?
- At what point do these learners of English stop? When they become a 'speaker' of English?
Then there is the question of how many of these learners of English use the Internet. There are 1,571,000,000 Internet users in the world (again via Wolfram Alpha), so that's 22.7% of the world's population.
How many of these speakers is it possible to reach online? Taking into account all of this, perhaps we can assume it's only possible to reach a maximum of 22.7% of the world's language learners, which means 220,000,000 people.
If we assume this, then the British Council currently reaches around 14,000,000 learners a year with its websites, which is 6.4% of maximum possible audience.
One of the ways that this guesstimate falls down, perhaps, is in the % calculation of language learners who use the Internet. My educated guess is that the % of learners who have access to the Internet is much lower than this- perhaps half the figure above (so, 110,000,000 people).
If this is so, then the websites reach an estimated 12.7% of total possible online audience, which sounds like a more reasonable number.
As I'm no statistician, and Maths is one of my weak points, I'd love to hear if I'm completely off-track here . What do you think? Is this fuzzy thinking?