It is estimated that between 6000 and 7000 languages are spoken worldwide. This is a very high figure considering that there are 189 independent states.
But among the 7.85 billion people on earth, which are the most spoken languages in the world? In today’s article, we will try to answer this question by analysing data from 1900 to 2021.
Most spoken languages
If we said that there are about 6/7 thousand languages in the world, what are the most spoken languages?
According to the latest data published by Ethnologue, in 2021 the most spoken language in the world will be English. With 1.348 billion people, this language is firmly in first place. In second place is Mandarin Chinese, which includes Standard Chinese but excludes the other varieties.
The Mandarin Chinese language, which comes from the Sino-Tibetan family, has 1.120 billion speakers worldwide. Among the top three most spoken languages in the world in 2021 is Hindi, which continues to grow year on year, with 600 million people speaking it.
Hindi does not include Urdu, which is in tenth position with 230 million people.
The figure of the most spoken languages in the world takes into account both people who speak the language as their first and second language. We will then see how, especially for English, many more people speak it as a second language than as a first.
But in general, English is far ahead of other languages in the top positions.
If we take the fourth most spoken language in the world, Spanish, the gap between it and English is as much as 800 million people. Spanish will be spoken by a total of 543 million people in 2021. In the top 10 are Standard Arabic, Bengali, French, Russian and Portuguese.
- English – 1.348 billion
- Mandarin Chinese (incl. Standard Chinese, but excl. other varieties) – 1.120 billion
- Hindi (excl. Urdu) – 600 million
- Spanish – 543 million
- Standard Arabic (excl. dialects) – 274 million
- Bengali – 268 million
- French – 267 million
- Russian – 258 million
- Portuguese – 258 million
- Urdu (excl. Hindi) – 230 million
The first and second most spoken languages in the world
What is the most spoken language in the world? If we take as reference the total, first and second language, the data are those seen above. But how does the data change if we take as reference only the first language? Below we have examined the first 20 languages by total number of people who speak them. If we order the ranking of the most spoken languages as first language, we no longer find English in first place, but Mandarin Chinese.
With 921.2 million people speaking it, Mandarin is in first place as the most spoken language.
In second place we find Spain with about half of the people, 471.4 million and only in third place English with 369.9 million people speaking this language. It is certainly an interesting data because it shows how in reality the subject is more complex.
For example, Yue Chinese is in 18th position on the total number of people who speak it and in ninth position worldwide among the most spoken languages as first language.
If we take the most widely spoken second language as a reference, English is “unbeatable”. In fact, there are almost 1 billion people worldwide who speak English as a second language. A good 978.2 million.
Mandarin Chinese, on the other hand, is spoken as a second language by about 1/5 of the people compared to English: 198.7 million people. Among the most spoken languages as a “second language” we also find Hindi, with 258.3 million speakers and French with 187.4 million.
The 100 Most-Spoken Languages in the World
To understand how complex the world of languages is, I offer you this latest infographic. Created by Word.Tips (here is the link) https://word.tips/100-most-spoken-languages/ shows which are the 100 most spoken languages in the world and how they are distributed worldwide.
Source and links
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