The 15 Most Spoken Languages In The World

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The 15 Most Spoken Languages In The World

The following is a list of the 15 most spoken languages according to the 2019 edition of Ethnologue. We intend to give you some key facts about those languages and an idea of the number of people you might be able to communicate with, if you speak one or more of those languages. Hopefully, it will be of interest to you or even inspire you to learn more about some of them.

1. English

The English language has the largest number of speakers in the world: almost 1.2 billion (1,200,000,000). As a global lingua franca, people understood it in large parts of America, Europe, Africa and Asia. The most English speakers can be found in the United States of America with 283 million (283,000,000), followed by India with 125 million (125,000,000) and Pakistan with 108 million (108,000,000). English is a West Germanic Language that gets its name from the Angles, a Germanic people that migrated to Great Britain and settled in what is now England. The United Kingdom, the state England is a part of, has 59 million (59,000,000) English speakers. If you have come this far in the article, you are among the speakers of this language.

2. Mandarin

Mandarin is a group of languages that is spoken mostly in northern and southwestern China. It is also referred to as Northern Chinese. 1,1 billion (1,200,000,000) people speak it. As most speakers are located in Asia, it is not quite as widely distributed as the English language. Mandarin is spoken in the People’s Republic of China by 1.4 billion (1,400,000,000) people, in Taiwan by 23 million (23,000,000) people as well as in Singapore by 6 million (6,000,000) people. 

3. Hindi

Modern Standard Hindi is a language that is mainly spoken in India, where it is one of the two official government languages, along with English. Hindi and Urdu, a related language, are largely mutually intelligible. 637 million people (637,000,000) speak Hindi. Variants of the language are also spoken in Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname. Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language and is written in the Devanagari script.

4. Spanish

538 million (538,000,000) people speak Spanish. The language originates from Spain, a country on the iberian Peninsula in Europe, but only 46 million (46,000,000) Spanish speakers can be found there. Most Spanish speakers can be found in the Americas. Mexico has the biggest number of Spanish speakers in the world with 126 million (126,000,000), then Colombia with 50 million (50,000,000), Spain with 46 million (46,000,000), Argentina with 54 million (54,000,000), Peru with 30 million (30,000,000) and Venezuela with 32 million (32,000,000). It is also the most spoken language in the African country Equatorial Guinea with 900,000 speakers.

5. French

The French language is spoken by 277 million (277,000,000) people worldwide. Like Spanish, it evolved from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and is therefore a Romance Language. The country with the largest number of French speakers is France, however there are more French speakers in Africa than in Europe. Like English, Spanish and Portuguese, French has spread across the world because of the British, Spanish, Portuguese and French empires. French speaking communities can be found on every continent. People who speak French are referred to as Francophone.

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6. Standard Arabic

Modern Standard Arabic was developed in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is not always mutually intelligible with regional Arabic dialects. However, variants of Arabic are spoken by about 274 million (274,000,000) people worldwide. Arabic is the majority language in Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, and many more. 

7. Bengali

The Bengali language, also known as Bangla, is spoken by about 256 million (265,000,000) people, mainly in Bangladesh and India. It is an Indo-Aryan language like Hindi.

8. Russian

Russian is a Slavic language that is spoken by 258 million (258,000,000) people. Most of them are located in Russia. It is also spoken in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. Many Russian speakers can also be found in Israel and Mongolia. Because of the Russian influence in the former Eastern Bloc countries, many people there can understand and speak it.

9. Portuguese

The Portuguese language is spoken by 252 million (252,000,000) people. Like Spanish and French, it is a Romance language with a wide distribution due to the expansion of the respective empires. Portuguese speakers are referred to as Lusophpone. Countries where Portuguese speakers can be found are Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe.

10. Indonesian

Indonesian is spoken by 199 million (199,000,000) people. A standardised variety of Malay, it is the official language of Indonesia. Most Indonesian speakers are at least bilingual and speak other local languages.

11. Urdu

171 million (171,000,000) people speak Urdu. As already discussed, it is mutually intelligible with Hindi. Most Urdu speakers can be found in Pakistan, where it is the official language. One difference between Urdu and Hindi is that Urdu’s vocabulary is mostly influenced by Persian, while Hindi’s vocabulary is mostly influenced by Sanskrit

12. German

German is spoken by 132 million (132,000,000) people worldwide. native speakers are found in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg Italy and Belgium. Like English, German is a West-Germanic language. Standard German is spoken and understood by most German speakers, however regional dialects vary and are often not mutually intelligible.

13. Japanese

126 million (126,000,000) people speak Japanese. It is the national language of Japan. Its history and relationship to other languages is debated. Japanese borrows characters and vocabulary from Chinese, but the genealogic relationship between the languages is unclear.

14. Swahili

Swahili, also known as Kiswahili is spoken by 99 million (99,000,000) people. It is a lingua franca of the African Great Lakes region and spoken in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, among other countries. 

15. Marathi

Marathi is spoken by about 95 million (95,000,000) people, most of them in India. It is another Indo-Aryan language and the official language of the states of Maharashtra and Goa.

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