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Within Asia, English has been used from the late 16th century onwards, when English traders began to deal in spices and the British East India Company was established. English was first introduced to the Indian subcontinent, where the company established control in the 18th century. When the company’s activities later extended to various parts of what is referred to as South-east Asia, settlements grew in Penang, Singapore and Malacca.

Towards the end of the 19th century, British protectorates were established in several territories, and English became the language of law, administration and education.
At the same time, in 1898, Guam and the Philippines were ceded to America by Spain. Given this history, American English has been influential in the latter two countries, whereas the influence of British English can still be felt in the other areas. The numbers of first language speakers is very low, however, and most speakers of English use it as a second language.


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© Christiane Meierkord
and individual reviewers