One of the questions we always get asked as people in the language and translation industry is, what are the most spoken languages in the world? While it may come across as being a relatively easy question to answer, the fact is that there isn’t much solid data to make an accurate top 10. However, what we do know is that Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic, and English are certainly among the top 10.
We did a bit of research and came up with the following Top 10 most spoken languages.
Chinese – Spoken by 1.3 Billion People
Now this one is easy. China has the largest population on the planet, and so it stands to reason that almost all of them are native Chinese speakers. Out of which 917 of them speak Mandarin. So to put things into context, one out of every six people in the world speaks Chinese!
Spanish – Currently has around 460 Million Speakers
You might think that English would at least be the second most spoken language, but that’s not the case. Spanish is spoken by around 460 million people, all of whom are native speakers. So, we’re not even counting those who speak it as a second language.
English – Has 379 Million Speakers
Currently, there are 379 million native English speakers. Furthermore, over 753 million speak it as a second language. Not only does it indicate the success of this language, but the fact that it makes up the fabric of business, diplomatic, and international relations landscape.
Hindi – 341 Million Speakers
Hindi has to be the fourth most spoken language in the world. It is spoken mainly in South Asia, with a variation of it called Urdu spoken in Pakistan.
Arabic – Spoken By 315 Million People
Arabic is spoken by a large section of the population of North Africa and the Middle East. However, Arabic varies similarly to Chinese, depending on where it is spoken. For instance, the Arabic spoken in Morocco is slightly different from the one in the Quran, which is referred to as Classical Arabic.
Bengali – Spoken by 228 Million People
Who would have thought that Bengali would be the sixth most spoken language in the world? While mainly spoken in Bangladesh, it is also spoken by many people in India and other parts of South Asia.
Portuguese – Spoken By 220 Million People
Portuguese is spoken in Portugal but also Mozambique, Brazil, and Angola. It is a language whose reach is attributed to the country’s colonial past, which started back in the 15th century.
Russian – 153 Million Speakers
While mainly spoken in Russia, it is amongst the eighth most spoken language today. It is one of the six languages still spoken in the UN.
Japanese – 128 Million People
It is one of the most highly geographically concentrated of all the top 10 languages. However, Japanese has two different writing systems the katakana and hiragana.
Lahnda, Also called Punjabi – 118 Million Speakers
It is estimated to have 118 million native speakers and is one of the macrolanguages in Pakistan. However, Punjabi is also spoken in India’s Punjab region, which was sliced in two during partition.