Festivals in Europe this March   Endangered languages

World’s most spoken languages

05 March, 2009 15:42  EasyExpat EasyExpat

Gone are the days when people spoke just one language. In case you’re planning to add a new language to your skill set, it may as well be one that you can use with a whole bunch of people. Check the list below for 10 of the most spoken languages in the world*.

1. Mandarin

With an estimated 1.2 billion people speaking it, it’s hardly surprising that this is the world’s most spoken native language. Belonging to the Sino-Tibetan and Chinese family of languages, Mandarin is not an easy language to learn. There are four tones to every syllable and a beginner is bound to get them mixed up. But hey, look on the bright side, if over a billion people can do it, so can you.

2. English

With over 500 million speakers of the language, English is the lingua franca used in much of the world today. Its speakers hail from all around the world, including New Zealand, the U.S., Australia, England, Zimbabwe, the Caribbean, Hong Kong, South Africa, and Canada. If you’re reading this article, you probably don’t need much more information on the language.

3. Spanish

With an estimate of over 322 million native speakers, Spanish is the third most spoken language in the world. One to learn if you’re headed to any South American country.

4. Hindi

This is the official language of India. With 313 million native speakers of standard Hindi, most of them in the South Asian region, this is a language to consider picking up, especially if you want to watch a Bollywood movie! Another advantage is that if you learn Hindi, you can understand a whole bunch of related dialects.

5. Arabic

Of Afro-Asiatic and Semitic origin, this is the native language spoken by an estimated 206 million people. It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations. One of the world’s oldest languages, it is spoken in the Middle East, with speakers found in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt. Furthermore, because Arabic is the language of the Koran, millions of Muslims in other countries speak Arabic as well.

6. Portugese

With around 177 million native speakers, this language is spoken far beyond its shores. Thanks to this country’s famous explorers like Vasco da Gama, the language established itself all over the world, especially in Brazil (where it’s the national language), Macau, Angola, Venezuela, and Mozambique.

7. Bengali

The national language of Bangladesh is the seventh most spoken language in the world. With Bangladeshi workers migrating around the world in search of jobs, it’s hardly surprising to note that Bengali is spoken in many countries that use immigrant labour.

8. Russian

Given that it’s the largest country, it’s no surprise that the national language has made it to the top 10 list. Russian is also one of the six official UN languages and is spoken beyond its borders in countries like Belarus and Kazakhstan to name a few.

9. Japanese

With roughly 130 million native speakers, Japanese makes it as the ninth most spoken language in the world. The Japanese language is written with a combination of three different types of scripts and its vocabulary borrows heavily from Chinese and other Indo-European languages, primarily English.

10. German

Of Indo-European and Germanic origin, German is spoken by an estimated 100 million native speakers. Swiss German and Austrian German are popular dialects spoken in its neighbouring countries.


Often called the most romantic language in the world, French is spoken in a number of countries, including Belgium, Canada, Rwanda, Cameroon, and Haiti. It’s also the official language of 29 countries. Although ranked 12 by the Ethnologue estimates (with 78 millions), it can extend to hundreds of millions of speakers with 113 million "native and real speakers", 250 million second language (worldwide including Africa and North Africa) and up to 500 million total with significant knowledge of the language (2008 ).

For a more detailed look at other popular languages spoken globally, click on the source of this article.

*Remember the estimates of people speaking the language vary according to different surveys. This article is intended to provide you with an overall idea of the popularity of languages.
Sidd Lobo
Freelance copywriter based out of Munich


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Sorry, Portuguese is NOT spoken in Venezuela as a national language. Spanish is. Venezuela was "discovered" by Cristobal Colon during his third trip to the New World, in 1498

Luis Rodriguez     05 Mar 2009, 17:32


Hi Luis,
The article doesn't say that Portugese is spoken as the national language in Venezuela. It says that it's the national language in Brazil. Thanks for the info on Cristobal Colon.

Sidd     05 Mar 2009, 17:39

India has no national language [Reply]

India has no national language . Please correct it . Check wiki links . Hindi is just the "official" language of India and English holds the same position too .

Bharanithar     06 Mar 2009, 04:17


Bharanithar> It has been corrected as "official".
1. Encyclopedia Britannica, India—Linguistic Composition. Quote: "By far the most widely spoken is Hindi, the country's official language, with more than 300 million speakers."
2. Encarta Encyclopedia "India: Official Languages." Quote: "Hindi is the main language of more than 40 percent of the population. No single language other than Hindi can claim speakers among even 10 percent of the total population. Hindi was therefore made India’s official language in 1965. English, which was associated with British rule, was retained as an option for official use because some non-Hindi speakers, particularly in Tamil Nādu, opposed the sole official use of Hindi."
3. United Kingdom, Foreign and Commonwealth Office: India—Country Profile. Quote: "The official language of India is Hindi written in the Devanagari script and spoken by some 30% of the population as a first language. Since 1965 English has been recognised as an 'associated language'."
4. UNESCO: Education for All—The Nine Largest Countries Quote: "Hindi is the language of 30% of the population and the official language of India."

  EasyExpat     06 Mar 2009, 09:49

Esperanto [Reply]

No mention of Esperanto yet

At the moment it is the 17th most used language by Wikipedia so the language must be moving upward then?

Check http://www.lernu.net

  Brian Barker     07 Mar 2009, 10:55

English [Reply]

English has way more than 500 million speakers. If you add countries that have it as practically a second language. In total estimated at around 1.1 billion.

  Staysure     16 Mar 2009, 16:26