Written by:
Feb 24, 2020

Top 10 Most Spoken Languages in the World

Did you know that there are about 6,500 spoken languages used around the world? About 2,000 of these languages have 1,000 or fewer speakers, and many of these languages are considered endangered. On the other end of the spectrum, nearly half of the world’s entire population speaks one of ten languages

What are the most spoken languages in the world? Figuring out what the most used languages in the world are is more challenging than it may seem at first glance. Do you count only native speakers? Second-language speakers? What about communities of speakers outside the main country where the language is spoken? Or even different dialects?

There’s a lot to consider when asking “what is the most common language?”

Is English the spoken language in the world?

With the number of native English speakers and L2 English speakers around the world (L2 speakers are those who speak a language as their second language), it may be easy to assume English is the most spoken language in the world. It is, however, a little way down the list, especially when measuring a language by population.  

Looking at all the languages in the world, these are the most common languages spoken across the globe.

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Top 10 Languages in the World

1. Mandarin Chinese

What is the #1 language in the world in terms of speakers? It’s Chinese. Wondering just how many people speak Chinese? It earns its rank as the number 1 language with over one billion speakers. Mandarin Chinese is spoken in People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and Singapore.

A few facts about the Mandarin language:

  • In Chinese, Mandarin is called pǔtōnghuà, literally “common speech”.
  • The writing system is character-based and you can learn to write Chinese characters using Scripts!

2. Spanish

After Mandarin, Spanish is the next most spoken language in the world. There are many dialects of Spanish spoken across Europe, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, but the language originated in the Castile region of Spain. 

A few facts about the Spanish language:

  • One of the names for Spanish in Spanish is castellano and the name originates with the language’s origins in the Castile region.
  • In the US, Spanish is the second most spoken language.

3. English

English is the modern lingua franca of the world--the presence and actions of the British Empire playing a large role in this. It’s the world’s third most spoken language in terms of native speakers.

A few facts about the English language:

  • English has many borrowed words from French, German, and other languages. 
  • The name for the English language, “English” has Germanic origins. 

The most spoken languages in the world

4. Hindi

Hindi is a language spoken in India and it is the official language of the Indian government. It’s mutually intelligible with Urdu.

A few facts about the Hindi language:

  • Hindi is written in Devanagari--a writing system you can learn with Scripts.
  • The English word “shampoo” is borrowed from Hindi along with punch, pajamas, guru, jungle, and khaki.

5. Bengali

The official language of Bangladesh, Bengali is the official language of Bangladesh and one of the most spoken languages of India.

A few facts about the Bengali language:

  • Bengali is written in a script related to Tibetan. 

6. Portuguese

Portuguese is a language related to Spanish and it is spoken in Portugal and Brazil. The name of the language comes from a word meaning “port”.

A few facts about the Portuguese language:

  • Brazil has the largest number of Portuguese speakers in the world. 
  • Portuguese has official status as a language in nine different countries.
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7. Russian

Russian is the most-spoken Slavic language in the world. It an official language in Russian, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. It’s related closely to Ukrainian and Belarusian and more distantly related to languages like Serbian, Croatian, Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, Slovak, and Bosnian.

A few facts about the Russian language:

  • Russian is the largest language in Europe in terms of native speakers.
  • It’s written using the Cyrillic alphabet--another script you can learn in Scripts!

8. Japanese

Japanese is one of the most geographically concentrated languages on this list of the most spoken languages in the world because nearly all of the world’s native Japanese speakers live in Japan. Beyond Japan, there are also large groups of native Japanese speakers in the US, Philippines, and Brazil.

A few facts about the Japanese language:

  • Japanese uses three writing systems side-by-side--hiragana, katakana, and kanji.
  • Japanese has a lot of unique onomatopoeic expressions.

9. Western Punjabi

Punjabi is a language spoken in India and Eastern Pakistan. It’s also the fourth most spoken language in the UK. 

A few facts about the Western Punjabi language:

  • Punjabi is a tonal language. This means that tone is used to indicate meaning much like in Vietnamese or Chinese.

10. Marathi

Marathi is another language on this list primarily spoken in India. It has the third largest number of native speakers in India after Hindi and Bengali. 

A few facts about the Marathi language:

  • Marathi has some of the oldest written literature of all the modern languages spoken in India. 
  • Marathi has both inclusive and exclusive forms of “we”. 

Where is Arabic on this list?

If the several dialects of Arabic were combined as a single language, it would fall at number 5 on this list of top languages spoken around the world. In the same vein, Chinese could be combined with Mandarin, Wu, and Yue (and often is on different lists of the most common languages spoken around the world).

What are the top 20 most spoken languages in the world?

After the ten languages mentioned above, the next ten most popular languages in the world in order are: Telugu, Wu Chinese, Turkish, Korean, French, German, Vietnamese, Tamil, Yue Chinese, and Urdu.

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