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- Top 10 Languages by Number of Native Speakers
- Chinese — 1.3 Billion Native Speakers
- Spanish — 460 Million Native Speakers
- English — 379 Million Native Speakers
- Hindi — 341 Million Native Speakers
- Arabic — 315 Million Native Speakers
- Bengali — 228 Million Native Speakers
- Portuguese — 220 Million Native Speakers
- Russian — 153 Million Native Speakers
- Japanese — 128 Million Native Speakers
When tallied according to number of native speakers only, these are the most spoken languages in the world.
Numbers vary widely — Ethnologue puts the number of native speakers at 1.3 billion native speakers, roughly 917 million of whom speak Mandarin — but there’s no doubt it’s the most spoken language in the world. If you wish to learn a language that one in six people in the world speak, this is the one for you. Seeing as Chinese is a tonal languagethat uses thousands of logograms, it will certainly keep you busy.
If we were only to look at native speakers, Spanish has its nose in front of English with about 460 million speakers. If you want a language that will open up whole continents to you, Spanish is your best bet. As with all the languages on this list, the politics of language and associated identity are highly disputed: ask Catalan or Quechua speakers if Spanish is their local tongue and you will get a very different answer. But it is certainly the primary language of most of South and Central America, Spain, and, ahem, large swathes of the US.
If you’re reading this article, you may be one of the 379 million-odd native English speakers, or one of the 753 million people who speak it as a second language. This indicates the remarkable success of English as the lingua francaof business, travel and international relations. The relative ease with which English can be picked up (especially compared with Chinese) and the pervasive soft power of US culture means that English will continue to dominate the world stage for the foreseeable future. For some, English is still synonymous with opportunity and a better quality of life.
India has 23 official languages, with Hindi/Urdu chief among them. Whether this is one language — Hindustani — or two dialects is still fiercely debated. Spoken mainly in northern India and parts of Pakistan, Hindi uses devnagri script, while Urdu uses Persian notation. At the time of writing, the debate about its role in Indian education and society has once again flared up: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, is seeking to have Hindi displace English in the southern Indian states as the primary language of official communication and education, a strategy that has been met with resistance. If you ever travel in the Indian subcontinent, a little Hindi will get you a long way. Plus, this is the language that gave us shampoo, jungle, jodhpurs and bungalow— what’s not to love?
Recent numbers put Arabic at around 315 million native speakers. But this is another instance of numbers not telling the full tale: Arabic, like Chinese, is so vastly different in its respective dialects as to be effectively a number of languages, grouped as one for the sake of convenience. Modern Standard Arabic is a primarily written form, closely related to the Classical Arabic of the Quran. However, the spoken forms of Arabic in, say, Oman and Morocco are so different that a couple of philosophy professors from these countries might be able to discuss the finer points of the ancient texts while still struggling to order lunch.
Admit it: you didn’t expect Bengali to be on the list of most spoken languages. The Partition of Bengal by the British in 1947 divided (mainly Hindu) West Bengal, now part of India, from its (mainly Muslim) counterpart East Bengal, now Bangladesh. It is the language of Kolkata, the Andaman Islands, fabulous sweets, and 130-odd million Bangladeshis — many of whom are extremely vulnerable to climate change. By the next century, the population is projected to double while 15 percent of the land area is expected to disappear below rising seas.
This is another language whose reach owes much to its colonial past. Starting in the 15th century, avid Portuguese traders and conquerors brought their language to Africa, Asia and the Americas. The spread of Portuguese may have initially been tied to European colonization, but the colonized countries developed their own vibrant cultures that transformed the language forever. Today, Portuguese is spoken by 220 million native speakersin countries like Brazil, Goa, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bisseau, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Macau. It’s also the language of Machado de Assis, Bossa Nova, Mia Couto, Fernando Pessoa, and Agualusa.
With roughly 153 million native speakers, Russian is the eighth most spoken language in the world. Famed for its inscrutable grammar and quite lovely Cyrillic script, it remains one of the six languages spoken in the UN, and produced the literary likes of Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, Chekhov, Gogol, Tolstoy and Pushkin.
Almost all of the 128 million native Japanese speakers live in Japan — certainly the most highly geographically concentrated of all the languages on this list. Japanese boasts two distinct writing systems, hiragana and katakana, as well making extensive use of Chinese Kanjicharacters. The largest groups of Japanese speakers living outside Japan can be found in the US, the Philippines and Brazil.
- Mandarin Chinese (1.1 billion speakers) Mandarin Chinese is the first language on our list of 10 most spoken languages in the world. Spoken by the maximal population of the world, Mandarin Chinese is among the varieties of Chinese languages that travel back to the 12th century.
- English (983 million speakers) The word “English” derives from the “Angles,” a Germanic population that lived in the first millennium A.D. in Britain. In the end, they took their name from Anglen, an area in northern Europe, and they gave their identity, of course, to the region today known as England.
- Hindustani (544 million speakers) The language Hindustani is the next language on our list of 10 most spoken languages in the world. The term ‘Hindi’ originates from ‘Hindustani’ which is spoken by the majority of the people in northern and central India.
- Spanish (527 million speakers) The dialect that is now known as Spanish emerged in Spain’s Castile region. For this explanation, in the language itself, it’s often referred to as ‘Castilian’-Castellano.
- English ( 1.268 billion speakers) Language Family: Germanic, a sub-family of Indo-European. Related To: German, Dutch, Frisian. The English Language is the most spoken languages in the world with over 1.268 billion total speakers.
- Mandarin Chinese (1.120 billion speakers) Language Family: Sino-Tibetan. Related To: Cantonese, Tibetan, Burmese. Mandarin is a group of Sinitic (Chinese) languages that was mostly spoken in Northern and Southwestern China.
- Hindi (637.3 million speakers) Language Family: Indo-Ayran, a sub-family of Indo-European. Related To: Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Kashmiri, Nepali. Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language that originated from India and over 637.3 people speak the Hindi language.
- Spanish (537.9 million speakers) Language Family: Romance, a sub-family of Indo-European. Related To: French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian. The Spanish Language is a beautiful Romance language which was originated from the Iberian peninsula of Europe and mainly spoken in Spain along with the Americas.
- Mandarin Chinese. What is the #1 language in the world in terms of speakers? It’s Chinese. Wondering just how many people speak Chinese? It earns its rank as the number 1 language with over one billion speakers.
- Spanish. After Mandarin, Spanish is the next most spoken language in the world. There are many dialects of Spanish spoken across Europe, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, but the language originated in the Castile region of Spain.
- English. English is the modern lingua franca of the world--the presence and actions of the British Empire playing a large role in this. It’s the world’s third most spoken language in terms of native speakers.
- Hindi. Hindi is a language spoken in India and it is the official language of the Indian government. It’s mutually intelligible with Urdu. A few facts about the Hindi language
- Mandarin. Unsurprisingly, the number 1 in our ranking happens to be Mandarin. Most people speak "Chinese" as a single, uniform language. In reality, it is the variant of Mandarin which is the official language in China and has 897 million native speakers.
- English. Still no surprise for the second of the list. English is the mother tongue of 371 million people, but it is spoken by 983 million people on Earth.
- Hindi. Hindi is a little bit better than Spanish! 544 million people speak this language, especially in India and Pakistan. Hindi and Urdu speakers are counted here together because the two people who speak these languages can easily understand each other.
- Spanish. Counting only the number of people whose mother tongue is Spanish, Spanish moves up to second place in the ranking. There are 436 million native Spanish speakers, mainly in Spain and Latin America.
This is a list of languages by total number of speakers. It is difficult to define what constitutes a language as opposed to a dialect . Some languages, such as Chinese and Arabic , cover several mutually unintelligible varieties and are sometimes considered single languages and sometimes language families.
- English - 1.13 billion speakers. The earliest forms of English were introduced to Britain by a succession of invaders. From Germanic tribes, Celts, and Vikings to Normans, English developed from several linguistic influences.
- Mandarin - 1.12 billion speakers. Mandarin Chinese is the second most popular spoken language in the world with a total of 1.12 billion speakers. Mandarin is part of the Sino-Tibetan linguistic family which stretches across much of Asia.
- Hindi - 615 million speakers. Hindi's roots go back to Sanskrit, an early language spoken by Aryan settlers in northwest India about three thousand years ago.
- Spanish - 534 million speakers. Spanish emerged in the Iberian Peninsula (today, Spain and Portugal) from interactions between the Celtic-speaking Celtiberians and the Latin-speaking Romans.
Dec 08, 2020 · With over 1.1 billion speakers worldwide, English is currently the closest we’ve come to a lingua ...RankLanguageTotal Speakers1English1,132 million2Mandarin Chinese1,117 million3Hindi615 million4Spanish534 million
- Carmen Ang
- related to: What are the 10 most spoken languages in the world?
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