The most spoken languages in the world
Ever wondered what are the most spoken languages in the world? Even though there are currently over 7,000 languages, more than half of the world’s population only speaks 23 of them.
Knowing this is critical for building a worldwide expansion strategy and advancing in the corporate world.
Additionally, having a command of multiple languages opens us to new worlds and gives us the chance to deepen our understanding of various cultures, whether for professional or personal growth.
We’ve put together this comprehensive list for you based on factual information, covering everything from the languages that English speakers will find easy to learn to the more challenging languages.
English (1,132 million speakers)
Family of languages: Germanic, an Indo-European stem.
Linked with: Frisian, Dutch, German.
English is the most widely spoken language in the world, with more than 1.130 million speakers. It is the standard language in many fields, including technology, tourism, and international trade.
A bilingual person who speaks both Spanish and English can understand one out of every three people who connect to the Internet. Additionally, she or he has access to more than 60% of all content published online.
Shakespeare is not just remembered as one of history’s greatest playwrights, but also for the astounding 1,700 words he contributed to the English language during his lifetime.
It’s also the native language of the skies, with all pilots required to communicate in English.
Mandarin (1,117 million speakers)
Family of languages: Sino-Tibetan.
Linked with: Cantonese, Tibetan, Burmese.
Mandarin is the second most spoken language in the world when native and non-native speakers are included. If only native speakers are considered, however, it is the first.
Mandarin is a group of Chinese dialects rather than a distinct language. The fact that the speakers of different dialects can understand one another is what links them together under the same term.
It’s interesting to note that while 20% of internet users are Chinese speakers, less than 1% of online content is written in this language.
It is one of the most difficult languages to learn, with over 50,000 characters.
Don’t worry though; there aren’t any verb tenses, conjugations, or gender-specific nouns either.
Hindi (615 million speakers)
Family of languages: the Indo-Ayran branch of the Indo-European family.
Associated with: Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Kashmiri, and Nepali.
The third most spoken language in the world, Hindi has over 615 million native speakers. It is used in nations including Nepal, Fiji, Mauritius, and Guyana. It is the official language of India.
Sanskrit has a significant effect on Hindi, which is named by the Persian word hind, which translates as “Land of the Indus river.”
Hindi is certainly something you already know if you speak English. Do the terms “guru,” “jungle,” “karma,” “yoga,” and “avatar” come to mind? These and many other words have been taken directly from Hindi.
Spanish (534 million speakers)
Family of languages: Romance, a sub-family of Indo-European.
Associated with: Romanian, Portuguese, Italian, and French.
In terms of native speakers, Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the world. It is also the Romance language that is most widely spoken and the third most frequently used online.
Its massive colonial expansion led it not just to America but also to Africa and Asia. Because of migration, the United States has the world’s second-biggest population of Spanish speakers.
French (280 million speakers)
Family of languages: Romance.
Associated with: Romanian, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish.
French colonialism facilitated the French language global diffusion. It is now the official tongue in 29 nations across several continents.
If English is the language of business, then French is regarded as the beautiful language of culture.
The fact that it is the third language with the highest percentage of non-native speakers demonstrates its great importance.
Arabic (274 million speakers)
Family of languages: Semitic, a sub-family of Afro-Asiatic.
Associated with: Hebrew, Amharic, and Aramaic.
26 nations have adopted Arabic as their official language. It is in reality a collection of dialects because of this geographic spread. Islam uses it as its liturgical language.
Not only is it a language that preserves the rich cultural heritage of the Arab world, but it is also a crucial tool for business in that area of the world.
Side note: There are at least 11 words in Arabic for love, each of which describes a different phase of romance. Isn’t that reason enough to start learning?
Also, it has influenced how English is used now. For instance, the term “coffee” is derived from the Arabic word “qahwa.”
Bengali (265 million speakers)
Family of languages: The Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European family.
Associated with: Hindu, Punjabi, Marathi, Kashmiri, and Nepali.
Bangladesh’s national language is Bengali. Additionally, it is spoken in various regions of Burma and India.
It might surprise you to learn that one of the most widely spoken languages in the world is spoken in such a small area. But when you consider how densely populated that area is, it makes sense.
Really fascinating is the Bengali alphabet.
The vowel sound is included in every consonant, which is rare for Westerners.
Even better, different markings alter a word’s default vowel sound, which therefore affects the meaning.
Russian (258 million speakers)
Family of languages: East Slavic, an Indo-European language family.
Associated with: Ukrainian, Belarusian.
If we consider Russian history and regions, the appearance of Russian among the most commonly spoken languages worldwide becomes less surprising.
In addition to being the official language of four nations, it is also widely spoken across the former Soviet Union. It has the most native speakers in all of Europe.
While Russian grammar is notoriously difficult, Russian only has about 200,000 words (English has about one million), hence most of them have several meanings.
Fun fact: International astronauts must learn a certain amount of Russian because of Russia’s influence in space technology (as if being an astronaut wasn’t tough enough!).
Portuguese (234 million speakers)
Family of languages: Romance, a sub-branch of Indo-European.
Associated with: Romanian, Spanish, French, and Italian.
Another language that developed during the period of European colonization is Portuguese.
Currently, it is the national language in 9 countries spread over Europe, America, Africa, and Asia.
Out of those nine nations, Brazil is the one with the greatest number of Portuguese speakers and is also the largest.
It is also the language that is spoken the most in the southern hemisphere.
Indonesian (198 million speakers)
Family of languages: Austronesian.
Associated with: Madurese, Javanese, Sundranese, and Malay.
The official language of Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, is Bahasa Indonesia.
Surprisingly, most of its speakers do not speak it as their first language. Instead, it’s a second language required for communication in a nation where more than 200 languages are spoken.
Fun fact: it is, together with Malay, one of the most polite languages in the world’s Eastern area.
How about Italian?
Italian is only the 25th most widely spoken language in the world, according to the ranking.
68 million people around the world speak the Romance language of Italian. Italy, Switzerland, and San Marino all have it as their official language.
Italian originated from Latin and has been greatly impacted by French. The 21 letters of the Italian alphabet are divided into 5 vowels and 16 consonants.
Italian has long been a popular language to learn. It is a lovely, romantic language that is rich in culture, cuisine, art, and fashion.
Which of the above global languages can you speak? And which one would you like to learn?
Still translating in your head? Wanna speak Italian for real? Check out Stefano's courses to think directly in Italian and become fluent fast!