The use of the English language in most member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations was inherited from British colonisation. English is spoken as a first or second language in most of the Commonwealth. In a few countries, such as Cyprus and Malaysia, it does not have official status, but is widely used as a lingua franca. Mozambique is an exception - although English is widely spoken there, it is a former Portuguese colony which joined the Commonwealth in 1996.
Many regions, notably Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore and the Caribbean, have developed their own native varieties of the language.
Written English as used in the Commonwealth generally favours British as opposed to American spelling, with Canada having a mix of both.
The report of the Inter-Governmental Group on Criteria for Commonwealth Membership states that English is a symbol of Commonwealth heritage and unity.
Southern Hemisphere native varieties of English began to develop during the 18th century, with the colonisation of Australasia and South Africa. Australian English and New Zealand English are closely related to each other, and share some similarities with South African English. The vocabularies of these dialects draw from both British and American English as well as numerous native peculiarities.
Canadian English is a variety of North American English. It shares the same roots as the English of the United States because it is based on the immigration of British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution in the late eighteenth century. It is also influenced by Scottish, Irish and English immigration after the War of 1812. While the language has continued to change in all of these places, modern Canadian has inherited significant vocabulary and spelling from the shared political and social institutions of Commonwealth countries.
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