The Most Spoken Languages in the World

By Sharon Omondi on January 19 2020 in World Facts

Mandarin Chinese is the world's most common first language.
Mandarin Chinese is the world's most common first language.

The ten most spoken languages in the world are Mandarin, Spanish, English, Portuguese, Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Russian, Japanese and Javanese. The ranking is according to the native speakers.

Most Spoken Languages By Native Speakers

Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken language in the world. The estimated population of Mandarin native speakers is 848 million. Mandarin is the official language in the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and Singapore. It is written using Chinese characters. There are two versions of the Chinese characters, namely the traditional characters and simplified characters. The traditional characters are currently used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau. On the other hand, Mandarin speakers in Malaysia, China, and Singapore use the simplified version.

Spanish

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers. An estimated 329 million natives speak Spanish. Spanish in Spanish is known as “español.” The language originated in the Castile region of Spain. Therefore, one may sometimes hear the Spanish language referred to as “Castilian.” Spanish explorers were responsible for spreading the language to many parts of the world. In the US, Spanish is the second most spoken language which makes it the second biggest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico.

English

The word English came from the “Angles” people who settled in Britain in the first millennium AD. The Angles were Germans who derived their name from a place in northern Germany called “Anglen.” Many years later, the English native speakers are approximately 328 million. English spread to other parts of the world because of the historical dominance of the British Empire. British missionaries, explorers, and colonialists introduced English to many parts of the world. Today, English is popularly the world’s “lingua franca.”

Portuguese

There are approximately 250 million native Portuguese speakers in the world. The Portuguese language developed from Latin and is closely related to modern Spanish. A Portuguese speaker is known as a “Lusophone.” Most Portuguese speakers live in Brazil. However, Portuguese is the official language in nine countries including Macau which is Chinese territory.

Arabic

Arabic is a language spoken by close to 221 million native speakers. It originated from the Arabian Peninsula. Presently, it is spoken by people who live in the Middle East and North African countries who are predominantly Muslims. Arabic is the language of the Islamic religion; although most Muslims are not native Arabic speakers. Muslims believe that God dictated the Quran to their prophet Mohammed in Arabic. The “Classical Arabic” that existed then, about 1400 years ago, is quite different from the “Modern Standard Arabic” used by most Arabic speakers today.

The Significance of Languages

Language is an essential aspect of people’s culture. It defines their beliefs and gives them a distinct identity from the rest of the world. However, people are free to learn other languages besides their native languages for the sake of business, education, tourism, and many other reasons. The three most commonly spoken languages in the world are Mandarin, Spanish, and English.

The World's Most Spoken Languages

RankLanguageNative Speakers (Estimated, Millions)
1Mandarin848
2Spanish329
3English328
4Portuguese250
5Arabic221
6Hindi182
7Bengali181
8Russian144
9Japanese122
10Javanese84.3

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