Many of the most commonly spoken languages in the world originated in Europe. The European Union (EU) recognizes 24 official languages spoken among its member states and more than 60 that are classified as regional or minority languages. The vast number of languages spoken across the continent is explained by Europe's rich and diverse historical background. The popularity of a language primarily depends on the number of native speakers, the global recognition of the language, and the number of available translators.
The Most Commonly Spoken Languages in Europe
Russian is the most commonly spoken language in Europe. European Russia has a population of 110 million people, and 106 million of that total speak Russian. However, not all of these individuals speak Russian as a mother tongue, although most can speak the language at a native level. Russian is mostly spoken in the eastern part of the continent.
German is the second most widely spoken language in Europe and commonly referred to as the "money language." There are about 97 million German speakers in Europe. Since Germany is considered the economic powerhouse of Europe, there many career opportunities for individuals who speak German. As a result, many immigrants chose to learn the German language.
French is spoken by more than 66 million people in Europe, making it the continent's third most commonly spoken language. It originated from the Indo-European linguistic family from Gaul. French is considered a Romance language and is the official language in France, Monaco, and Western Switzerland, among others.
Italian ranks as the fourth most commonly spoken language in Europe and has more than 65 million speakers across the continent. Italian is the official language of Italy, San Marino, Vatican City, and Croatia. It is also the most closely related to Latin and is the language of ancient Rome. The Italian language is associated with high-end branding, luxury goods, classical music, and fine art.
The English language was first spoken in early medieval England but is now spoken globally. English is spoken by approximately 60 million people and is the fifth most common language in Europe. The English language has been influenced by other Germanic languages and French. It is spoken in most countries as an official language or one of the official languages.
About 38.5 million people in Europe speak Polish. It is the native language of Poland, but is also spoken by minority populations outside the country.
Spanish has 38 million speakers in Europe. Most people also refer to Spanish as Castilian, since it originated in the Castile region of Spain.
More than 36 million people in Europe speak Ukrainian, and it is the official language of Ukraine. Ukraine originated from the Old East Slavic language of Kievan Rus’.
Romanian is the ninth most commonly spoken language in Europe, with over 22 million speakers. It is a native and official language in Romania and Moldova. Romanian is also one of the official languages of the European Union.
Dutch is spoken as a first language by approximately 22 million people in Europe. The Dutch language is the third most commonly spoken Germanic language, after English and German.
Usage of European Languages
Most of the languages highlighted above are recognized official languages of the European Union since they are widely spoken. Within Europe, most of these languages are spoken both as the mother tongue and as the official language.