How many languages in the world?
What are the most widely spoken languages in the world?
Today, over 6,500 languages are spoken throughout the world. Each and every one of them contributes to the world's diversity and beauty.
Regrettably, some of these languages are less well-known than others.
Others are spoken by large populations in several countries and are frequently popular choices among language learners.
Continue reading to learn about the world's top twelve most spoken languages in terms of native speakers, as well as everything you need to know about them.
The world's top 12 most spoken languages
The most widely spoken languages in the world as of 2021
1. The English language (1,132 million speakers)
Germanic is a subfamily of Indo-European languages.
German, Dutch, and Frisian are all related terms.
Fun fact: The English word "goodbye" was derived from the phrase "God be with you."
English is the most spoken language in the world, with approximately 1.130 million native speakers.
It is also the official language of the sky, with all pilots required to communicate and identify themselves in English.
Shakespeare is usually regarded as one of the greatest dramatists of all time, but he also introduced an amazing 1,700 words to the English language during his lifetime by converting nouns into verbs, verbs into nouns, connecting some words with one other, and adding prefixes or suffixes to others.
2. Chinese in Mandarin (1,117 million speakers)
Sino-Tibetan language family
Cantonese, Tibetan, and Burmese are all related languages.
Fun fact: According to research, you just need roughly 2,500 characters to be able to read nearly 98 percent of everyday written Chinese.
Mandarin Chinese is by far the world's second most spoken language in terms of native speakers alone.
It is the official language of the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, and Singapore, as well as one of the United Nations' six official languages. It is therefore unsurprising that there are around 1.09 million native speakers globally.
Mandarin is a tonal language, which means that the meaning of a word changes depending on how it is said.
It is undoubtedly one of the most difficult languages to learn, with a character set of around 50,000.
Don't worry, there are no verb conjugations, tenses, or gender-specific nouns.
Isn't that motivating?
Perhaps this is why it is one of the most popular languages to learn today...
3. In Hindi (615 million speakers)
Indo-Ayran is a subfamily of Indo-European languages.
Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Kashmiri, and Nepali
Fun fact: If you speak English, you probably know a little Hindi. Do phrases like guru, jungle, karma, yoga, bungalow, cheetah, and avatar come to mind? These (and many more!) words have been taken from Hindi.
There are around 615 million native Hindi speakers, making it the world's third most spoken language. It is the official language of India, and it is also spoken in Nepal, Fiji, Mauritius, and Guyana.
Hindi is heavily inspired by Sanskrit and is named after the Persian term hind, which literally means "Land of the Indus River."
4. Spanish (534 million speakers)
Romance is a subfamily of Indo-European languages.
French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian are all related.
Fun fact: The first modern novel was written in Spanish, and it is the second most translated book after the Bible. Which book? Of course, it's Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes!
Spanish is the official language of 22 countries across four continents, and it is already the world's second most studied language.
Can you think that within three generations, 10% of the world's population will be fluent in Spanish?
For native English speakers, this is fantastic news.
For Spanish appears to be the easiest foreign language to learn for English speakers! According to experts, it only takes 22-24 weeks to achieve what is known as general professional competency in the language.
5. French (280 million speakers)
Romance language family
Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian are all related.
Surprisingly, over 45 percent of modern English words are of French origin.
Despite what Hollywood movies may portray, the language of love does not exist simply on moonlit walks in Paris.
The French language has stretched its roots far and wide, from the remainder of France and parts of Canada to a number of African countries, notably Senegal and Madagascar.
6. Arabic is a sixth language (274 million speakers)
Semitic is a subfamily of Afro-Asian languages.
Hebrew, Amharic, and Aramaic are all related languages.
Fun fact: There are at least 11 terms in Arabic for love, each describing a different step in the process of falling in love. Isn't that reason enough to start learning?
Arabic is the sixth most spoken language in the world, with 295 million native speakers, and the only one in our top twelve that is written from right to left.
It has also had a significant impact on European languages such as Spanish and Portuguese, with several terms sounding identical.
It has also left its imprint on the English language. Coffee, for example, is derived from the Arabic term qahwa.
7. Bangla/Bengali is the seventh language (265 million speakers)
Indo-Aryan is a subfamily of Indo-European languages.
Hindu, Punjabi, Marathi, Kashmiri, and Nepali
While the Bengali script is relatively unfamiliar in the West, it is the world's fifth most extensively used writing system!
Bengali, also known as Bangla by many English speakers around the world, is mostly spoken in Bangladesh and India and is regarded by some as the second most beautiful language after French.
It is the seventh most spoken language in the world, with around 205 million native speakers.
The Bengali alphabet is really intriguing.
Every consonant has a built-in vowel sound, which is rare for Westerners.
It gets even better: different markings alter a word's default vowel sound, and thus its meaning!
8. Russian (258 million speakers)
East Slavic is a subfamily of Indo-European languages.
Associated with: Ukrainian, Belarusian
Fun fact: Because of Russia's prominence in space technology, international astronauts are required to know a certain amount of Russian (as if becoming an astronaut wasn't challenging enough!).
Russian is the eight most spoken language in the world and one of the most widely spoken (with around 155 million native speakers worldwide).
While Russian grammar is well-known for being difficult, Russian only has about 200,000 words (English has about one million), therefore most of them have more than one meaning.
9th – Portuguese (234 million speakers)
Romance, a sub-branch of Indo-European, is a language family.
Spanish, French, Italian, and Romanian are all related.
Fun fact: The letters "k," "w," and "y" were not previously included in the Portuguese alphabet. A new agreement was made in 2009 to standardise spelling forms across various variances.
Although Portuguese is founded in the region of Medieval Galicia (which was partially in northern Portugal and partially in northwest Spain), only 5% of the 215 million native Portuguese speakers live in Portugal.
You are probably aware that it is the official language of Brazil, but it is also the single official language of the following countries: Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macau, Cape Verde, and So Tomé and Prncipe.
10. Indonesian (199 million speakers)
Austronesian is a language family.
Malay, Javanese, Sundranese, Madurese, and other related languages
It is, together with Malay, one of the most polite languages in the world's Eastern area.
Indonesian is a widely spoken language that contains a number of diverse dialects across Indonesia. It is a standardised version of Malay, an Austronesian language that is the official language of Malaysia.
And, contrary to popular belief, Indonesian is surprisingly straightforward to learn, thanks to its basic structure and easy pronunciation.
11. Urdu (170 million speakers)
Indo-Aryan language family
Related languages include: Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Kashmiri, and Nepali.
Fun fact: Hindi and Urdu speakers can hold a casual conversation just fine - as long as they keep it simple!
Urdu, Pakistan's lingua franca and a near cousin to Hindi, has moved up the list of most spoken languages in the last year or two.
The French language, dubbed the language of love by some for its intriguing-sounding and beautiful words, may have some competition...
12. German (132 million speakers)
West Germanic is a subfamily of Indo-European languages.
English, Frisian, and Dutch are all related.
German is famous for its seemingly unending sentences.
German, known as the language of authors and intellectuals, has more than 100 million native – and slightly under 32 non-native – speakers worldwide, and is the most spoken language in the European Union.
Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Luxembourg all have it as an official language.
Not least because of its potential to generate entirely new and highly particular terms.
That's most likely why it's so poetic. Schadenfreude, for example, literally means "damage happiness" and is used to describe the delight or pleasure obtained from the misfortune, hurt, or agony of another.