Among the world’s 7.6 billion inhabitants, it is estimated that there are about 6500 languages spoken in total. A truly impressive number that demonstrates how the variety of languages are really many. But among these 6500 languages, which are the most spoken ones in the world? In today’s article and video we are going to analyze the most spoken languages in the world from 1900 to 2021.
Most spoken languages in the world by total number of speakers
A premise is important. There are several rankings to figure out which languages are the most spoken in the world. To make this video, I used the figure of the most spoken languages in the world by number of people who speak it. In this case, the data refers to native and non-native speakers. In the following chapter, we will see the data for languages with exclusively native speakers.
The language with the most speakers in the world in 2021 will be English. In fact, English has about 1 billion 300 million speakers. Following in second position is Mandarin Chinese, with 1 billion 128 million. And in third place is Hindi with almost 646 million speakers worldwide. Then comes Spanish, not too far behind Hindi. From the fifth position up to the 11th, the figure varies from 280 million for French to almost 220 million for Urdu.
The most spoken languages in the world – 1900
We’ve seen the 2021 data. But what were the most spoken languages in the world in 1900? In this case, the data is less precise than in 2021. But still, these allow us to make several assessments. The first is that Mandarin Chinese in 1900 was for all intents and purposes the most spoken language in the world. In fact, the total number of speakers was 472.5 million. In second place was Spanish – currently the fourth language – and “only” in third place was English with about 270 million.
It is interesting to note that within the most spoken languages in the world for number of speakers there was also – for example – Italian. This language in 1900 had about 45 million speakers. Talking again about the most spoken languages in the variation from 1900 to 2021, it is curious how English has passed from 270 million speakers to 1 billion 300 million with a growth of more than 1 billion speakers.
Predictions of the most spoken languages in the world by 2100
Making a prediction about 2100 is not that simple. We have seen in recent years how some events can upset humanity. But in general it is possible to make some considerations by following demographic developments. A starting data is important. It is estimated that in the next 80 years the population may arrive between 8.8 billion and 10.9 (UN estimates). In general, the countries that will be growing in terms of population are mostly Asian countries, such as India and China, and some African countries, such as Nigeria.
According to Colette Grinevald, it is estimated that the number of languages spoken worldwide could decrease by about 50%. They could therefore go from the current 7000 or so, to 3500 or so. The most spoken languages in the world, however, will remain in part those already mentioned in the video. The English language in fact will remain fundamental for its importance as a language for European commerce and scientific studies. Modern Chinese, with the increase of the population, will surely have more and more weight and will be able to contend for the supremacy with English. But also Arabic, Swahili and Hindi will increase.
In short, the top 3 should still see a challenge between English, Mandarin Chinese, and one between Spanish and Hindi.
Languages by number of native speakers – 2020
We’ve seen in the article and video which are the most spoken languages in the world from 1900 to 2100. But what are the most spoken languages by number of native speakers?
In this case the discourse changes. In fact, the language with the most native speakers is Mandarin Chinese. In fact this language has 921 million people who speak it as first language and “only” 200 million who speak it as second. A completely different matter is that it is the language with the most speakers, but as a language it is spoken only by 370 million people while as a second language it is spoken by almost 900 million. English is today the most international language in the world. English is surpassed in this ranking even by Spanish, which counts 463 million people who speak it as their first language – let’s think, for example, of all Latin America – and 75 million who speak it as a second language.
Sources and useful links
To make this article and video I used several sources of which the primary one is Ethnologue.
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