English is a West Germanic language (the largest branch of the Germanic family of languages) which is the dominant language in the United Kingdom, the United States, the Republic of Ireland, many Commonwealth nations including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and other former British colonies. It is also an important or official language in many countries formerly under British or American rule, such as India, Nigeria and the Philippines.
The English language belongs to the western sub-branch of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Apart from English-lexified creole languages such as Tok Pisin and Bislama, the nearest living relative of English is Scots (Lallans), spoken mostly in Scotland and parts of Northern Ireland. Like English, Scots is a direct descendant of Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon.
After Scots, the next closest relative is Frisian—spoken in the Netherlands and Germany. Other less closely related living languages include German, Low German, Dutch, Scandinavian languages and Afrikaans. Many French words are also intelligible to an English speaker (pronunciations are not always identical, of course) because English absorbed a tremendous amount of vocabulary from French, via the Norman language after the Norman conquest and directly from French in further centuries; as a result, a substantial share of English vocabulary is quite close to the French, with some minor spelling differences (word endings, use of old French spellings etc.), as well as occasional differences in meaning.
English is the primary language in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia (Australian English), the Bahamas, Barbados (Caribbean English), Bermuda, Belize, the British Indian Ocean Territory, the British Virgin Islands, Canada (Canadian English), the Cayman Islands, Dominica, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Grenada, Guernsey, Guyana, Isle of Man, Jamaica (Jamaican English), Jersey, Montserrat, New Zealand (New Zealand English), Ireland (Hiberno-English), Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the United Kingdom (various forms of British English), the U.S. Virgin Islands and the United States (various forms of American English)
English is also an important minority language of South Africa (South African English), and in several other former colonies and current dependent territories of the United Kingdom and the United States, for example Singapore and Mauritius.
In many other countries, where English is not a major first language, it is an official language; these countries include Cameroon, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Ghana, Gambia, India, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Rwanda, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.