A language is an essential tool in our lives. We use language to communicate with everyone. Only when this tool is taking away do we comprehend how crucial it is. When we speak to someone that uses a different language, we instantly realize how much we rely on language every day. Many tools in development may eliminate the barrier of language in the future as automatic translation could become a reality very soon. Until then, we can rely on advanced services like Google Translate that make discussing with anyone possible.
There are often debates over which is the most spoken language in the world. The difference comes down to how you define spoken. If you take the people’s primary language globally or count every language that a person speaks. Suppose we define it by the total number of speakers. In that case, English is the most spoken language in the world, with between 1.3 to 1.5 billion speakers. Mandarin Chinese comes a close second at 1.2 billion. However, if we look only at native-level speakers, the scenario is very different.
128 million people speak Japanese as a primary language. Japan remained isolated from much of the world for a very long time allowing the country to place significant importance on its own culture and retain its own traits.
The Indonesian language did not exist until 1928. Its standardized version of Malay was considered a separate language only for political purposes. Over 199 million speakers are fluent speakers of Indonesian. Still, only 20 million actually use it as their first language, which means most Indonesian speakers are more likely multilingual. Indonesian has a simple language structure which makes it easy to write and pronounce also to learn.
Portuguese is one of the most extensively spoken languages globally as a primary language despite the small size of Portugal. The reason is, of course, Brazil. With a population of over 200 million, Brazil alone contributes to many of these native speakers. There are another 12 countries that speak the language as well. This means that well over 252 million people speak Portuguese in the world.
Russian is spoken by 258 million people across 19 countries. The collapse of the Soviet Union has shown many other languages, but Russian is still very dominant across Eastern Europe. It is broadly used in the Baltic states, the Caucasus, and Central Asia too.The Russian Language was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 26 December 1991. It is the sixth official language of the United Nations and the second most widespread language on the internet after English.
Bengali is the other prominent language of India, with 265 million speakers. It is spoken in three different countries as well as India. Bangladesh and Sierra Leone are the two countries that use Bengali as the official language. Bengali-speaking people do not live in Sierra Leone. Still, Bengali is the official language of Sierra Leone for the status in recognition of the Bangladeshi peacekeeping force to restore the peace of that region.
Arabic falls into fifth place with 295 million speakers across 57 countries and 19 dialects. The country is often missed in the list because Western populations are only starting to travel to these countries more now and only beginning to understand the spread of the Arabic tongue.
About 45% of modern English words are of French origin. It is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. Over 29 countries people spoke French as the official language, such as Belgium, Burundi, Canada, Niger, Switzerland, Togo, etc. French is also considered an instrumental language in the diplomatic world, along with English.
21 countries have Spanish as the official language, mainly across Europe, Africa, Central, South, and North America. Spanish has two names Castellano which is the Spanish word for Castilian and Español. There are 537 million native Spanish speakers in the world today.
Hindi comes in third place with 637 million speakers. This often surprises people that Hindi speaking population in India is so low. This is because India has several state languages. While they all have an incredibly high number of speakers, they bring down the total number of each.
Many different forms of the language that many people call ‘Chinese’ Mandarin are the predominant form. There are an estimated 1.12 billion native speakers of the 13 different dialects that the language has. Clearly, the number is not that different from total speakers as few people learn Chinese who are not native speakers.
English is the most spoken native language, with 376 million native speakers across over 106 countries. It is incredible to think about the hundreds of millions of English speakers as a second language to bring that figure to over 1.3 billion in total. Over 67 countries and 27 non-sovereign entities speak the English language as the official language. This is why English is seen as the most common language when traveling.