Top 10 Most Spoken Languages

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The development of spoken languages is probably the most significant development in communications in the history of the world.  Since mankind first developed language, languages have developed into a multitude of varieties, a diversity which endures to this day.  Here is a list of the top ten languages, grouped by the number of native speakers.

10.  German (over 90 million speakers)

German

German is a member of the West Germanic language family, alongside English.  German is primarily spoken, as its name suggests, in Germany, where it is the official language.  However, it is also the official language of Austria, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg, and is one of three official languages of Belgium (alongside Dutch and French) and one of four official languages of Switzerland (alongside French, Italian, and Romansch) and is the official language of Italian province of Bolzano-Bozen.  In addition, it is recognized as a minority language in several countires, including Poland, Denmark, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Common German phrases include Guten tag (Good day), Sprechen sie Deutsch? (Do you speak German?), and auf wiedersehen (Goodbye).

9.  Japanese (132 million speakers)

Japanese

The Japanese language is a member of the Japonic language family (which also includes the Ryukyuan language spoken on the island of Okinawa).  Most Japanese native speakers live in Japan and its territories, but native Japanese speakers also live in Korea, the United States and Europe.  Japanese is the official language of Japan, and it also enjoys official status in Palau.

Common phrases in Japanese include konichiwa (hello), arigato (Thank you), and sayonara (goodbye).

8.  Russian (144 million speakers)

Russian

The Russian language is a member of the East Slavic family of languages, a family which also includes the Belarusian, Ukrainian, and Rusyn languages.  Most of Russian’s 144 million speakers live in Russia, where it is the official language.  Other countries with large Russian-speaking populations include Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.  Russian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Common Russian phrases include ????????????. (ZDRAHST-vooy-tyeh; hello), ??. (dah: yes), and ???????. (spuh-SEE-buh; thank you).

7.  Portuguese (178 million speakers)

Portuguese

The Portuguese language is a member of the Italo-Western branch of the Romance language family.  Like the other Romance languages, it is a descendant of Latin (“Romance” referring to Rome).  It is the official language of both Portugal and Brazil, where most native speakers live.  In addition, it is the official language of Angola, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe, and is a mandatory subject of study in schools in Uruguay and Argentina.  It is currently the fourth most learned language in the world, with 30 million learners.

Common Portuguese phrases include Bom dia (Good day), Como está? (how are you?), and Não (No).

6.  Bengali (181 million speakers)

Bengali

Bengali is a member of the Indo-Aryan language family, alongside languages such as Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.  Most of its speakers live in the country of Bangladesh, where it is the official language.  Speakers also live in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam.  Speakers also live in Europe, the United States, and even Saudi Arabia.  Bengali has a rich literary tradition and is a focal point of Bengali nationalism.  Bengali is written in the Bengali script, which is related to the Sanskrit and Hindi scripts.

Common Bengali phrases include Nômoshkar (Hello), Apnar nam ki? (What is your name?), and Ektu (please).

5.  Arabic (221 million speakers)

Arabic

Arabic is a member of the Semitic language family, which includes Hebrew Neo-Aramaic languages such as Syriac and Neo-Chaldean.  Arabic is most often identified with the Middle East and North Africa, and is the official language of 26 countries.  It sits alongside Hebrew as the official language of Israel, and has large populations of speakers in both Europe and North America.  Additional, its classical variant is the language of the Qu’ran.  Arabic is written in the Arabic script.

Common Arabic phrases include as-salaamu ‘alaikum (Peace be with you, a formal greeting), Na’am (yes), and ismaHli (excuse me).

4.  Hindi-Urdu (242 million speakers total)

Hindi Urdu

Hindi-Urdu is a member of the Indo-Aryan family, alongside Bengali.  It is a pluricentric language and has two official forms, Standard Hindi and Standard Urdu, although the two forms are nearly indistinguishable from each other.  Hindi is the official language of India, whilst Urdu is the official language of Pakistan.  Urdu and Hindi are also spoken in parts of Europe and North America with heavy Indian and Pakistani immigrant populations.  It is written in both the Hindi alphabet and the Arabic alphabet (for Urdu due to Islamic influence).

3.  English (328 Million speakers)

English

English is a member of the West Germanic language family.  It originally sprouted from the Anglo-Saxon language (Old English) and borrowed heavily from Latin and French due to the Norman conquest of England.  Though it developed in the British isles, the largest population of English speakers lives in the United States, with about 309 million speakers.  English is the official language of 53 countries, including Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Jamaica, and New Zealand, and is the de facto language of the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.  It also has large speaking populations in several African and Oceanian countries, and is a “subsidiary official language” in India.

English is also an official language of several organizations, including the UN, NATO, and the European Union.

2.  Spanish (329 million speakers)

Spanish

Spanish is a member of the West Iberian branch of the Romance languages, closely related to Portuguese.  Spanish is one of the most widely distributed languages in the world; it is the official language of over 20 countries, and is the official language of nearly every state in Latin America, excepting Brazil, Belize, etc.  Additionally, large populations of native speakers have immigrated to the United States, and Spanish is now one of the most common languages in the American southwest.  It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Common Spanish phrases include hola (hello), Que pase un buen día (Have a good day), and ¿Cómo te llamas? (What is your name?).

1.  Mandarin (over 845 million speakers)

Chinese

Mandarin is often called Chinese by non-speakers, but it is in fact only one of many Chinese languages, which include Cantonese and Xiang, in the Sino-Tibetan language family.  Mandarin is the largest of the Chinese languages, and is the official language of the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan.  It is also one of four official languages of Singapore (the others being English, Malay and Tamil).  In addition, large scale immigration from both mainland China and Taiwan have brought large populations of Mandarin speakers to the United States and Europe.  Mandarin has two writing systems; Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese.

Common Mandarin phrases include N? h?o! (Hello!), W? míngzi jiào… (My name is…), and Hu?nyíng! (You’re welcome!)

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by Justin Jurek


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83 Comments

  1. ahaha no surprise chinese is number here 😛

    btw: huan ying means “welcome”, as in welcome to my house, not “your welcome” (just incase your learning chinese atm)

    really surprised that english was third, up to now i thought it was second.

  2. Re: #9 Japanese

    Don’t forget about Brazil, which is where the largest Japanese community (outside of Japan) in the world resides.

  3. What about Malay-Indonesian language? It’s the official language of 200Millions plus Indonesian. Plus Malaysia, Brunei and some part of Thailand & Philippines.

    • Malay-Indonesian actually is not an ethnic language. While malay language evolved naturally, Indonesian language is artificial language which mean it was invented based on malay language. This is because there are over 300 ethnics/tribes and more than 700 living language in Indonesia. In the early indonesian independence, malay and indonesian is not mutually intelligible at all but there was a moved to standardized both language as we know today. Most Indonesian speak Javanese as their first language, but in formal like administration, commerce and business they used indonesian (malay based language). That is why some website exclude malay-indonesian as a popular language.

  4. Edward Gustafspo on

    English easily has more speakers than that. The United States alone has over 300 million people. Even if you assume 10% of that population does not speak English, you still have Britain, Ireland, the majority of Canada, Australia, new Zealand and most of South Africa. Easily over 400 million

    • Justin Jurek on

      The list is grouped by the number of native speakers, ie. people for whom the language is their first.

      • If he wanted to list non-native speakers, he’d include most of India, Hong Kong, and parts of most countries that require English as a second language which would total at least 1 billion.

        • TOTAL English native speakers : 328 million

          1 United States 225,505,953[1]
          2 United Kingdom 58,200,000[21]
          3 Canada 18,232,195[22]
          4 Australia 15,581,334[23]
          5 Ireland 4,400,000[24]
          6 South Africa 3,673,203[25]
          7 New Zealand 3,500,000+ (approx.)[26]
          8 Philippines 3,427,000[8]
          9 Jamaica 2,600,000+ (approx.)[27]
          10 Spain 990,000[28]
          10 Trinidad and Tobago 945,000[citation needed]
          12 Singapore 884,418[29]
          13 Guyana 650,000
          14 Liberia 600,000
          15 Sierra Leone 500,000
          16 Malaysia 380,000
          17 Germany 272,504
          18 Barbados 262,000
          19 Bahamas 260,000
          20 Zimbabwe 250,000
          21 India 227,000

    • Yes, you are correct. The numbers for both Spanish and English look old to me. I have seen elsewhere that in 2011, the number of (native) English and Spanish speakers are both estimated at over 400 million.

        • but portuguese here (Brazil) is so different from the portuguese spoken in Portugal

        • Fabricio, no matter how you want to put it, in Brazil you speak Portuguese, not Brazilian…and it isn’t so different because the Portuguese understand the Brazilian perfectly well and vice-versa. Would you say that people in the United States speak American. It is very different from the English from England, isn’t it?

    • There is more than 50 countries that speak spanish as their native language. In total is more than what US UK Canada South Africa and Australia has…..plus out of 300 million americans…a good 10-20% speak spanish

      • Um… Spanish is only official in 21 countries……. In fact, not a single language on Earth is even close to being official in 50 countries…. Wishful thinking much?

  5. Some “common” phrases” are wrong, the Russian ones for example, 1 of them (thank you) is being typed wrong, as in, the way to pronounce it is wrong. The other one (hello) is not completely right.

    huanying doesn’t mean you’re welcome.

    There could’ve been more researching. As some are obviously taken from a simple translate device. Also how do you pronounce a question mark? Not good at all.

  6. How is french not here!?, I mean german it’s only spoken in Germany, Austria and maybe parts of other countrys, and Japanese it’s spoken like only in Japan… but french is spoken in say France, Belgium, Canada, Cote de Ivory, la guyane, Haití, Argelia, Lybia and lot’s of other african countries

      • And that makes two of you that are wrong. The purpose of this list is to number actual first-language speakers. Just because somebody took a French course in high school 30 years ago does not make them a French speaker.

        • Many former French colonies still have its official language. Even if we accepted your “intellectual” maneuver Indonesian (or Bahasa Indonesia) should be ranked in the top 10.

    • Though French is official in many countries, almost all those countries have low populations of French speakers. Canada has 6 million, Belgium 4 million, Switzerland 1 million, and in basically all African nations where French is official, it is spoken by significantly less than half the populations there.

    • Also, French is not official in Libia… The only official language there is Arabic. (Fun fact: during Mussolini’s reign in Italy, Italian was the official language of Libia, as well as Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tunisia, Western Egypt, Malta and at least 9 other European territories. This was during most of the 20th century.)

      • Italian was never an offical language in Ethiopia because they wherent colonized by Europe. Italy only occupied them for 5 years during WWII

    • Mais oui. C’est triste mais vrai. French is in a slump right now. However, by the year 2050 many analysts believe that the number of French speakers will be booming again, mostly due to growth in Africa.

  7. how come official language from country that have over 200 million citizen didn’t make it to top 10?
    yes, I talk about Indonesia, the official national language, Indonesian, universally taught in schools, and consequently is spoken by nearly every Indonesian. It is the language of business, politics, national media, education, and academia in here.
    you said it’s based from number of native speakers, isn’t it?

    • Indo-Malay is only natively spoken in Sumatra and Malaysia. The bulk of Indonesians are Javanese and technically speak one of several Javanese languages as a first language. If we count the total number of fluent speakers (1st or 2nd language) you are correct in pointing out that indonesian should be on the list.

      Dion

  8. I don’t think “Sprechen sie Deutsch” is a very common phrase in German – amongst foreign visitors to Germany perhaps. A better sample would be “Danke” for “Thanks” and “Bitte” for “Please/You’re welcome”.
    Also, on a point of detail, English is not THE official language of Ireland – it is one of the two official languages, the other being Irish. English is of course the de-facto language in the country.

  9. This is so dumb. French is spoken in France, many African countries, Switzerland, Belguim, Canada etc. French is a top language in the world. Spoken much more than half of these languages

    • That is so common a misconception. French is spoken in France, by shrinking minorities in Canada and Belgium, and as a second language of higher education among the urban elites in many African countries. But the vast majority of people in Chad, Mali, etc. cannot and do not speak French. And even among the elites in France’s former colonies, French is really a foreign language, not the language that they speak at home and on the streets, regardless of whatever its official status is.

  10. Irfan Parviz on

    My mother language is Urdu which is spoked most the Indians and many other places including Pakistan

  11. JOHN THE BOMB on

    LOL french should be at least 5th with 200 million native and 100 million bilingual LOL get ur facts right

    • Wrong. French is a snob language that in the past has boasted of grossly over-inflated numbers of speakers. It really isn’t the primary language anywhere except in France. Minorities speak French in Canada, Belgium and Switzerland, but even in those countries, the proportion of French speakers is in decline. For example, francophonie websites will usually boast of all the Cajuns who still speak French (according to them) in the Louisiana bayou. Well, I have been down to southern Louisiana many, many, many times for work, and I can assure you that almost nobody down there still speaks French. Some cajuns do have a very thick cajun accent in English, but they language they speak every day on the street, at work, to each other, is English. Likewise, the language that the vast majority of Haitians speak is kweyol, not French. And so on and so forth..

      • It does not matter who ranks better.

        Out of 90 millions German speakers 82 are from Germany 8 from Austria. One can hardly define the German language as being “global”. The right question is do German people speak other languages?

        That the Germans actually speak German does not exactly reveal a cultural supremacy if that was the purpose of this ranking. Same goes with Portuguese (Brazil+Portugal), or Mandarin (China only). No big surprise there.

        Food for thought: In 2011 in USA it is estimated that only 18% of young Americans learn a second language, compared to a staggering 98% in Europe. (Great Britain aside) I do not know the figures in China but I am confident they are even lower than USA.

        One country’s apparent strength could be perceived as a weakness by others. For instance, I have very little doubts that the Chinese government is more worried about the Chinese people discovering a wider access to social welfare, capital and education than how many foreigners speak Mandarin Worldwide.

  12. john the bomb on

    i noticed the francophones dident submit there nuber of speakers this year but they have 300 million speakers world wide of which 200 million are native speakers so french should be at least 5th or 6th place sorry to break it to you but your lists wrong

  13. Bien me parece que el español tiene más hablantes de los que aqui se dice, pero bien, el lugra que le dan es justo.

  14. Aqui hablamos de lengua materna, como segunda lengua esta claro que el ingles se ha impuesto. Por lo demas creo que no solo es interesante el numero, tambien lo es la tendencia, en 50 años las cosas habran cambiado:

    El chino ha alcanzado su cumbre, se estabilizara o bajara.

    El ingles subirá despacio.

    El español y el portugues creceran de forma muy fuerte, ambos sumaran llegara a 900 millones en el 2050.

    El frances acabara desapareciendo, es hoy una lengua muerta. Los demas no lo se.

    • Eur pal Spanish may not be my mother tongue but even I know French is not a dead tongue. Latin is. Just saying.

      Now, who cares if half the World speaks Spanish or not? What should matter to a Spanish speaking country like Mexico is why so Mexicans flee to America to never return? Or to pretty much every South American nations why education is not accessible to everyone?

    • Just the opposite. This list numbers actual native speakers (although their numbers are old… in 2011 native spanish and english speakers are both estimated at over 400 million and native portuguese speakers are estimated at over 200 million). That is why French didn’t even make the list, because the number of French speakers is grossly inflated by people who may have had some French in school but who do not actually speak French as their primary everyday language.

  15. The formal greeting in Arabic is Marhaba which means hello NOT “as-salaamu ‘alaikum” which is the formal greeting to muslims only NOT Christians. This offends me as an Arab Christian and should be fixed immediately. This is an insult to me and the millions of Arab Christians around the world.

    • I’ll think you’ll find English is the second most spoken language. America has about 300 million, Britain – 59m, Canada – 30m, Australia – 20m, and New Zealand about 2m. That’s about 411 million accross the wourld, and manny more people use English as a second language.

      • Yes, America (I assume you mean the U.S.A.) does have 300 million inhabitants, but have you been to south Florida or Los Angeles or Phoenix or west Texas in the last couple decades? Try driving through southern California and turning the radio dial on the car… almost every single radio station is in Spanish. In many neighborhoods in the southwest, all the signs in all the stores are in Spanish. A co-worker from the Orlando, FL area was telling me recently how he had gone to a watch repair shop in his childhood neighborhood and that the attendant had to call for somebody from the backroom of the shop who could speak English. Like it or not, “American” does not necessarily mean predominantly English-speaking anymore.

  16. I thought Bahasa Indonesia would be on the list. There are over 245 million Indonesians, the vast majority of whom speak this national language as well as their own regional dialects.

  17. Yes, this list should be updated.. There are some languages in the list that are not expected to be in the top10.. The top 1, 2 & 3 can be slightly true, but not the rest.. And so as its ranking.. This might not be based in terms of population & language spoken. This should be entitled “Top 10 Most Spoken Languages IMO”..

  18. i think if it based by country where the language as a national language
    – Bahasa Indonesia Malaysia will sit at number 6, why?
    Indonesia has 250 million people and counting
    Malayia has more than 28 million people
    neighboring country such as Brunei, Singapore, Timor Leste, Southern Philippine, southern Thailand also used bahasa Indonesia

  19. but wy only mencion south central and north america spanish is also spoken here in africa in equatorial guinea canary island sahara and north marocco as a mother lenguage.

  20. If it is the most spoken language we are talking about,English is the most spoken language with I think
    more than 1.5 billion.My native country India probably has around 50 million speakers who can read and
    write and speak English quite accurately. Hindi is probably the third most spoken language .
    According to Wikipedia,
    Spanish has a total of 390 million speakers
    Hindi 410 speakers.Urdu also is spoken by some of the Muslim nations such as Pakistan, with a fair degree of fluency,So I think we should promote Hindi to the 3rd position in the list on the basis of the most spoken language

  21. The administrator should fix this data, how could Bahasa Indonesia isn’t in list. Its spoken by more than 230 million of people of Indonesia plus million people of Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Timor Leste, and South of Thailand.

  22. Giu Syndrome on

    Italian is also official in Bolzano, not just German. In fact, in a 2001 study, over 73% spoke Italian in Bolzano, while only 26% spoke German.

  23. Rodrix krish on

    what happend to tamil then? it’s one of the oldest ancient language in the world…
    still nobody knows the exact founded period.

  24. English is way undercounted. Native speakers should be closer to 400 million. Fluent secondary speakers are that many more. Its definitely still the #2 language in the world, especially where business is concerned. Spanish will eventually pass it in native speakers but it will never be the number two language in the world.

  25. Either way, i speak english, spanish, and portuguese. I ended up here because i thought i would find out what my fourth language would be. I’m still undecided. 🙁

    • You already know Spanish and Portuguese, so it would be easy for you to learn Italian or French. Or Romanian, which is a beautiful language.
      I’d say, choose an exotic one! There are so many beautiful languages out there…
      You should definitely consider:
      – Irish or Welsh because they sound awesome!
      – Czech or Slovakian are amazing languages. And they are rich in culture and music.
      – Latin if you love grammar and history. (I do and it really helps to understand the structure of any other language)
      – Navaho if you are really really adventurous…
      Well, just pick any language you like.

  26. my god.. relax. french was the lingua franca who knows how many centuries ago, currently it’s english. but even the number of native english speakers these days are on the decline. English only became the lingua franca because USA spoke english, and it was a major power back then, so it had a huge influence.
    Keep an open mind. What does it matter if your language is or isn’t in the top 10? That bit of pride, is it worth bickering about…? Geesh. Whether it be because of politics or pop culture, language is always changing, and so does its preference.

  27. i speack spanish mother lenguage.but i speak english and german and is very funny to now more lenguages.cause i have more oportunities to meet people and make a partyyyy yiiiiiiiiiiihaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!

  28. It does not matter who ranks better.

    Out of 90 millions German speakers 82 are from Germany 8 from Austria. One can hardly define the German language as being �global�. The right question is do German people speak other languages?

    That the Germans actually speak German does not exactly reveal a cultural supremacy if that was the purpose of this ranking. Same goes with Portuguese (Brazil+Portugal), or Mandarin (China only). No big surprise there.

    Food for thought: In 2011 in USA it is estimated that only 18% of young Americans learn a second language, compared to a staggering 98% in Europe. (Great Britain aside) I do not know the figures in China but I am confident they are even lower than USA.

    One country�s apparent strength could be perceived as a weakness by others. For instance, I have very little doubts that the Chinese government is more worried about the Chinese people discovering a wider access to social welfare, capital and education than how many foreigners speak Mandarin Worldwide.

    • My native language is German (Bavarian), I speak nearly fluent English and French and a little bit of Spanish and Czech, but I’m far from fluent there. And I know at least enough Russian to introduce myself, order beer or ask for the direction. (I can read and translate Latin but I don’t know if that counts. It certainly helped me with any language I ever learned or tried to learn!)
      I used to travel a lot and normally the “lingua franca” amongst us bagbackers has always been English (except for Spain, I really had to learn Spanish there to talk to anybody!). But wherever I go, I consider it as kind of respect to the country to learn at least some basic expressions. It’s fun and people like it. Consequently, if I meet Americans or Australians in my country and they try to talk English to me without even the slightest attempt of speaking some German, I only shrug my shoulders and walk by. Like I said, respect.
      Speaking a popular language is no excuse for not learning another one. And you miss out on really great literature too, translations are rarely ever as good as the original.

  29. but spanis is not only spoken in america.also in spain,andorra,equatorial guinea,canary island,westh sahara,north marroco,philippines as a mother lenguage

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