Top 10 most spoken languages
If you’re looking to reach a global audience, then you’ll need to know what are the top 10 most widely spoken languages.
From business partnerships and negotiations to travelling abroad, understanding the culture of another language is essential for anyone planning international campaigns or projects.
Are you curious about which languages are the most popular worldwide?
Read on for our outline of the top 10 most widely spoken languages.
How many languages are there?
Did you know that currently there are more than 7100 languages spoken in the world?
This number changes over time as the languages are constantly changing. Ethnologue.com have done a great job on the research of languages, and we’ll be using their findings in this post to find out what is the most spoken language.
Ethnologue has conducted detailed research into documented languages and the state of their usage around the world. Of those languages compiled, an astonishing 40% of them can be classified as endangered. What does this mean? It means a language is considered to be endangered when no more than 1,000 individuals use it in their daily lives to communicate.
This is sad as with every dying language some part of our history and culture is dying too.
But, let us turn our attention to the ten most spoken languages in the world…
Top 10 languages by number of native speakers
One way of looking at the list of the biggest languages in the world is to compare their native speakers. The below list covers the top ten languages organised by the volume of native speakers.
#1 – Mandarin Chinese
929 million native speakers
Undoubtedly, Mandarin Chinese is the indisputable most spoken native language in the world and reigns supreme at number one on our list.
In China, there are a variety of Chinese dialects spoken, with Mandarin being one of them. Mandarin, officially known as the Official Language of the People’s Republic of China, is sometimes referred to as Standard Chinese.
Mandarin is very concentrated. It is mainly spoken by native speakers, so it makes sense to see the language predominantly in a few states, particularly those located in Asia, where most of its first-language speakers reside.
#2 – Spanish
475 million native speakers
The Spanish language is currently second based on the number of native speakers. Spanish is predominantly spoken in 31 countries located primarily within Latin America and Spain.
The Castile region of Spain is the birthplace of the Spanish language.
Spanish is widely thought of as an easy language to learn, especially for native English speakers.
#3 – English
373 million native speakers
English has become one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, securing its place as a major international tongue. Based on the number of native speakers it is currently the third most spoken language.
English has been adopted as the official language of over one hundred countries worldwide.
Considered one of the world’s most influential languages, its reach spans far and wide.
English is undoubtedly the world’s most widely-spoken second language, making it a natural choice for individuals of all backgrounds.
English belongs to the Indo-European family of languages and is part of the Germanic languages.
#4 – Hindi
344 million native speakers
The fourth spot on this list is taken by Hindi.
Hindi is the mother tongue of seven countries, with Nepal and India being the primary among them. It is essential to note that this figure of native speakers does NOT include Urdu. The widespread use of this language is a testament to the vast population residing within these countries.
#5 – Bengali
234 million native speakers
Boasting the fifth-highest number of native speakers worldwide, Bengali – also known as Bangla – is one of India’s most prevalent languages. Bengali is a language that may only be spoken natively in Bangladesh and India, yet it has an incredible 234 million speakers—in fact, the number of speakers puts Bengali comfortably in the middle of the top 10 most-spoken languages.
Note: According to prior Ethnologue editions, Standard Arabic held the title of fifth-most spoken language in the world with native speakers topping 270 million. After the 2022 edition, this language is no longer considered a primary or native language in. their classification.
Our research indicates that certain languages, namely Chinese and Arabic, can be classified as either a language family or even just one singular language. Ethnologue has established certain languages, such as Arabic, Persian, Malay, Pashto and Chinese – each consisting of distinct variations that are not mutually intelligible with one another – to be classified as macrolanguages. For this reason, they have been excluded from this section.
#6 – Portuguese
232 million native speakers
Sitting in at number six on the most spoken languages list is Portuguese. Portuguese is the language of over 232 million people across the globe, with a large population residing in Africa and South America.
An intriguing fact is that the Portuguese alphabet expanded from 23 to 26 letters due to the New Orthographic Agreement of 1990. The Portuguese language belongs to the Italic Romance branch of the Indo-European language family. Other languages in this family include Spanish, French and Italian.
Nine countries recognise Portuguese as their official language.
#7 – Russian
154 million native speakers
Russian follows Portuguese and is sitting at a comfortable 7 place among the world’s most spoken languages. Boasting more than 154 million native speakers, this Slavic language stands as the largest within its language family. Other big languages in the Slavic family include Ukrainian, Polish, and Belarusian.
Russian is widely spoken in many countries which were formerly under the Soviet Union’s control. Reportedly, some people in 16 distinct nations consider it their native language.
#8 – Japanese
130 million native speakers
Japanese language follows Russian and occupies the eighth spot. Japanese is an isolated language that has the majority of its 130 million speakers within its own country of origin, Japan.
Japanese is a language that embodies thousands of onomatopoeic words, which directly represent the sounds they describe. Japanese comic books and manga have found these words to be incredibly useful.
#9 – Yue Chinese
85 million native speakers
The Yue Chinese language group often referred to as Cantonese, is renowned for being spoken in the southernmost parts of China. For centuries, Liangguang (encompassing provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi) has served as the ancestral home for Yue speakers.
While Yue and Mandarin Chinese share many words, the two languages are vastly distinct in terms of pronunciation, consonants, and tones. Moreover, the verb placement within sentences differs greatly between these two dialects.
To the shock of many, Cantonese is not permitted in any school material or official documents issued by the government. This is due to its informal nature and unique features that are only found in this language. Instead, Standard Chinese – a modernized version of Mandarin – is the dominating language used in all formal settings as the official language.
#10 – Vietnamese
85 million native speakers
Ranking tenth on our list of languages is the remarkable Vietnamese language, which boasts a huge 85 million speakers globally. Vietnamese culture and society are so heavily intertwined with its language, that it has been bestowed the honour of being both Vietnam’s national and official language. The Czech Republic has graciously welcomed and recognized Vietnamese as a minority language, affording its vibrant culture an opportunity to be appreciated at the national level.
In Vietnamese, altering the tone of your voice can entirely alter the meaning of a sentence – making it one of few tonal languages in existence. For that reason, it’s quite a hard language to learn for English native speakers.
The Vietnamese language has been heavily influenced by both Chinese and French, with tones being used to differentiate between words of similar syllabic structure.
Top 10 most spoken languages including native and non-native speakers
The above list of most spoken languages was based on the number of native speakers. Let’s analyse the changes to the list when we include not only native but also non-native speakers in our tally of spoken languages.
If a language is only spoken by a small population within one nation, how much might that number change when examining all speakers around the world in combination with its native population?
Let us dig deeper below the surface to uncover interesting trends and phenomena that could reshape our understanding of global linguistics.
#1 – English
Over 1,500 million speakers
English reigns supreme in this list. English is used in far more countries than Mandarin, with a whopping 146 nations speaking English. Its unparalleled popularity in Africa has cemented this linguistic advantage even further.
English is a Germanic language and is part of the Indo-European language family.
#2 – Mandarin Chinese
Over 1,100 million speakers
#3 – Hindi
602.2 million speakers
#4 – Spanish
548.3 million speakers
#5 – French
274.1 million speakers
#6 – Standard Arabic
274.0 million speakers
#7 – Bengali
272.7 million speakers
#8 – Russian
258.2 million speakers
#9 – Portuguese
257.7 million speakers
#10 – Urdu
231.3 million speakers
What languages cover more than half the world’s population?
If you’re working with a global audience, it’s important to know which languages command the most attention and appeal.
With around 8 billion people around the world speaking different dialects, it can be difficult to identify which ones will capture your intended market’s interest.
But did you know that with only a handful of languages, you can communicate with more than half of the world’s population?
5 languages with native speakers covering 30% of the world’s population
Despite the multitude of languages spoken across our planet, nearly a third of Earth’s inhabitants communicate through just five native tongues.
If we look at the top 5 most spoken native languages, we have Mandarin, Spanish, English, Hindi and Bengali. These 5 languages cover over 2.4 billion people around the world. This is roughly 30% of the population.
5 most spoken languages cover half the world’s population
However, if we look at the languages spoken by native and non-native speakers, the top 5 languages then are: English, Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish and French.
With a whopping 50% of the world’s population speaking at least one language in this list their reach is astounding. From native speakers to those who learned them as a second language, these 5 languages cover over 4 billion people.
As we can see from the data provided, language is an integral part of human life and culture. Understanding the diversity of languages spoken around the world is essential for global unity.
We have come to understand that there are many languages across the globe, over 7,000 in fact.
That being said, a few of them stand out more than others. This article highlighted the 10 most widely spoken languages from the perspective of native speakers and non-native speakers.
We covered that when considering native speakers only Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world. The second most spoken language is Spanish.
However, if we count all speakers then English is the most widely spoken language, with Mandarin moving to the second most spoken language.
The power of language is truly astonishing and enlightening; it binds us together while also creating unique spaces for individual expression.
If you’re interested in learning more about these 10 widely spoken languages or want to explore translating your communication to reach audiences around the world— contact us! Fill in the form and our knowledgeable team will be happy to help you on your journey to exploration and new discoveries.