The most spoken languages in the world

This would have been a Top 10 list, except Number 11 is Japanese and Number 12 German, both very important languages, so I’ll make this the TOP 12 list of the most spoken languages in the world, as at 2009. Source is Ethnologue, a widely cited

reference for languages. The full

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list can be found on Wikipedia if you’re keen.

No surprises here. Chinese is number one – but do note that there are many dialects within the Chinese language. Chinese and Spanish are the top two because both China and South America are very populous. If we compiled another list of the most spoken languages in the world, including people who speak English as a second language, English will come

up tops, especially given the rate at which young Chinese and Spanish kids are learning English.

Ranking by number of native speakers Language Number of speakers Where spoken natively by more than 5% of the population or listed as an official language in the countries’ constitution
1 Chinese 1,205m People’s Republic of China (including self-governing Special Administrative Regions),Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia
2 Spanish 429m Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic,Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua,Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela,Andorra, Western Sahara.
3 English 428m United Kingdom, United States, India, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand,Ireland, British Overseas Territories, Singapore, Malaysia, Belize, Bermuda,Gibraltar, Northern Mariana Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, The Bahamas,Barbados, Guam, Cayman Islands, Philippines, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago,Malta, Hong Kong, Botswana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Zimbabwe Also see List of countries by English-speaking population
4 Hindi 260m (Kariboli only) India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Singapore, and in parts of United States, Canada, United Kingdom.
5 Arabic 221m Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Libya,Lebanon, Jordan, Mauritania, Palestinian territories, Israel, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Chad, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Djibouti, Somalia, Western Sahara
6 Malay/Indonesian 260m Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines,East Timor
7 Portuguese 205m Brazil, Portugal, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Goa, Macau, East Timor,Guinea-Bissau
8 Bengali 193m Bangladesh, India
9 Russian 144m Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Israel,Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Estonia, Lithuania, Turkmenistan
10 French 128m (2005) Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Channel Islands, Comoros, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, France, French Guiana,French Polynesia, Gabon, Guinea, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali,Morocco, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Switzerland, Togo, Vanuatu, Andorra, Grenada,French overseas territories
11 Japanese 122m Japan
12 Standard German 101m (1994) Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Belgium (German-speaking community of Belgium), Italy (Province of Bolzano-Bozen)

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About The Author

Kenneth is Director of Euroasia. He is passionate about languages and cultures.

1 Comment

  1. Ahmed Salem says:

    Hi there,

    Just to correct your post if I may. Western Sahara isn’t a country but a territory. It’s actually administered by the kingdom of Morocco.


    Ahmed Salem

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