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
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|
|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|
|12||Standard German||101m (1994)||Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Belgium (German-speaking community of Belgium), Italy (Province of Bolzano-Bozen)|