Most spoken languages in the world

Most spoken languages in the world by the number of native speakers. A quite common question is: “What are the most spoken languages in the world?” A lot of people are wondering only a few actually know. The list has a lot of surprises if you see it the first time.

Most spoken languages: Chinese is Nr.1

1. Chinese

According to Ethnologue the most spoken language in the world is Chinese. There is an estimated 1,197 million first-language speakers of Chinese. Chinese is distributed in different language subgroups such as Gan, Jinyu, the widely known Mandarin (Guan) and others in the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family according to Wikipedia. It is spoken in 33 different countries.

Most spoken languages: Nr.2 Spanish

2. Spanish

Spanish is spoken by 414 million speakers38.4 million speakers alone  are living in Spain. It is the most widely understood language in the Western Hemisphere and the most popular second language learned by Americans.

The third most spoken language: English

3. English

English is only the third most spoken language. It is spoken in 99 different countries with a total of 414 million native speakers. It’s history can be divided into 3 different periods: Modern English, Middle English and Old English.

4. Hindi

Although Hindi is only spoken in 4 different countries, it is the 4th most spoken language in the world with 260 million speakers. Modern Standard Hindi is one of the official languages in India and is related to Urdu.

5. Arabic

237 million speakers, Nr.5 in the most spoken languages and written from right to left. The language we are looking for is Arabic. The Quran and Islam helped the Arabic language to play a significant role all over the world. Arabic is the official language in 22 countries (EasyArabic).

6. Portuguese

Portuguese is a Romance language spoken in Brazil, Portugal, Angola and 9 other countries. Other Romance languages are Spanish, Italian, French and Romanian. It is the 6th most spoken language with 204 million mother tongue speakers. The 3 most used verbs are ser, ter and ir  -Verbix.

7. Bengali

Bengali or বাংলা is the native language of the Bengal region. Spoken by 193 million people, it is the 7th most spoken language worldwide. In Bangladesh alone there are 100 million Bengali speakers. Bengali also is once of the official languages in India. About 85 million people speak Bengali in India.

8. Russian

Russian is written with the Cyrillic alphabet and closely related to Ukrainian and Belarusian according to Omniglot. 167 million speakers in 16 different countries speak Russian as their mother tongue. Russian has 6 different cases: nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, instrumental, prepositional. 

9. Japanese

122 million speak Japanese as their native language. Japanese is mostly spoken in Japan, no surprise here. Japanese, or Nihongo as the Japanese people call their language has three different writing styles: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Kanji are the Chinese characters lent form the Chinese language.

10. Javanese

Javanese is the 10th most spoken language in the world with 84.3 million speakers. Who would have expected this? The main country where Javanese is spoken is Indonesia. It is the second most spoken Austronesian language after Indonesian.

These are the 10 most spoken languages out of about 7000 existing languages. It is important to recognized that the list rates the languages by the number of mother tongue speakers. If you also take second language speakers in to account, the picture looks somewhat different.

Most spoken languages infographic

Most spoken languages infographic


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