Language and dialect are fiercely contested topics. It is nearly impossible to measure native language speakers, especially when globalization has crossed regional and national borders.
For instance, what most people know as “Chinese” is indeed a whole family of languages. Similarly, Hindi is also a complete set of several dialects and sub-dialects.
Nonetheless, we have tried to list languages based on the most reliable data and information sources available.
So, without any further ado, here are the top 10 most spoken languages in the world.
With nearly 1.3 billion native speakers, Chinese is surely the most spoken language in the world. However, as already mentioned, the language is more like a family of different languages, including Mandarin.
It is surprising that considering the total number of speakers, and not the native ones, Mandarin tops Chinese as a whole with over 1.1 billion speakers.
Indeed, learning Chinese would mean you can communicate with 1/6th of the global population.
Surprisingly, Español is by far the second most spoken language in the world, with over 471 million native speakers.
The language is officially spoken in almost all of America, including the southern and northern continents.
Perhaps, learning Spanish can open up a whole continent to you. Besides, Spanish News is one of the most circulated media online. Even the most popular English newspapers have their Spanish versions.
Clearly, learning this language is going to add more value to your ability to communicate globally.
How can the language that has been regarded as the most valuable legacy of any Empire be not included in this list? Yes, English is regarded as a legacy of the British Empire and is indeed one of the most spoken languages in the world.
Although the native English speakers are only 370 million, native speakers from other languages make up an even larger population. Making English the top language spoken all around the world with more speakers than native Chinese – 1.34 billion.
Clearly, English is the language that can open up the whole world for you. You go anywhere, and you can find someone who speaks and understands English.
Shocking, as it may be, but Hindi is also one of the most spoken languages in the world, with over 342 million native speakers.
Recently, the British education council has included the language into their school program. A proud moment for Indians, the largest population that speaks Hindi as their native language.
However, like Chinese, Hindi is also a group of several dialects and sub-dialects, as already mentioned. Nonetheless, it is widely spoken in the south and central Asian regions, including the Indian subcontinent.
Fun Fact: Currently, India has the largest number of newspapers in circulation in all languages, including Hindi and 22 other scheduled languages, as recorded.
With close to 315 million native speakers, Arabic has recently topped Portuguese in the race for the most spoken languages in the world.
However, the language has several dialects from region to region, similar to Chinese and Hindi.
For example, written Arabic resembles the classical Arabic of the Quran, but the variations are introduced in spoken Arabic from country to country. To give you a gist, the Arabic spoken in Oman is different than that spoken in Morocco.
Another language from the colonial era with 232 million native speakers, Portuguese is the sixth most spoken language in the world.
The language has traveled across the world since the 15th century, including parts of Asia, America, and Africa.
Today, small colonies all around the world can be found speaking Portuguese for day-to-day communication.
Wait…a scheduled language in India and the official language of a small country like Bangladesh is amongst the most spoken languages in the world?
You surely didn’t expect that. But, with 229 million native speakers, Bengali, or as it is locally known, Bangla is one of the most spoken languages in the world.
To your surprise, the number of newspapers published in Bengali far exceeds the number of papers published in Hindi.
Famed for its difficult grammar and Cyrillic script, Russian remains one of the six languages studied in the US. The language has over 154 million native speakers situated in Eastern Europe.
The language belongs to a family of the Indo-European script and is used widely across northern Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Siberian region.
Surprisingly, it is the primary language used in many of the ancient works of literature, including Tolstoy and Pushkin.
One of the most fascinating languages spoken by an entire country’s population, officially, has to be on this list. Yes, we are talking about Japanese.
With 126 million native speakers and still growing, Japanese is certainly one of the most spoken languages in the world.
Although the language is largely restricted by geographical boundaries, other countries that use Japanese include the United States, the Philippines, and Brazil.
Fun fact: Japanese as a language has recently gained a lot of attention, thanks to anime and fantasy media. Currently, small populations in South and Southeast Asian countries are the majority of consumers for Japanese media.
You probably expected German to be on this list, but unfortunately, the language got dumped a few years ago.
Nonetheless, the last spot on this list goes to a Pakistani macrolanguage – Lahnda, often referred to as Western Punjabi.
The language has around 118 million native speakers situated primarily in Pakistan and the neighboring Indian Punjab region.
To Sum It up
It shouldn’t be surprising that more than half of the world’s population would claim one of these ten languages as their mother tongue.
Notably, these languages are primarily ranked in the descending number of their native speakers. If we were to consider the total number of speakers, the list would have been rearranged. And probably, there would have been some other languages instead of these on the list.
Nonetheless, any of these ten languages would still ensure that you can communicate with almost anyone you meet anywhere on this earth. Given that you know at least one of these languages.