The Nine Most Spoken Languages In The World

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22 September 2022
By Sarah Angela Almaden
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Unsplash: Pascal Bernardon


Eenie, meenie, miny, moe. Do you know which language is the most spoken language in the world? Eenie, meenie, miny, moe. This is a tricky one because determining the most spoken language can be divided into two topics: “Most widely spoken language based on the number of native speakers” versus “Language that has the greatest total number of speakers.”

So if you were to take a guess, which language would you have thought to be the most-spoken language based on the number of native speakers? And which language would you have thought to have the greatest total number of speakers? I suppose English might be one of your three guesses to the two different questions, right? Because of your lucky guess, five pigs are now going to fly. Fly pigs, fly. Along with English, the list also includes Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and other languages. Now, are you curious to know if your mother tongue made the list? Continue reading to find out!

English

Native speakers: 372.9 million speakers
Total number of speakers: 1.452 billion speakers

English is the most spoken language in the world and the third most spoken native language. In 2005, it was estimated that there were more than 2 billion English speakers. Different countries use various accents and dialects of English, but this does not prevent other speakers from understanding the language. In addition, because the language is pluricentric, no one national government has exclusive power over how it should be used.

English is sometimes described as the first global lingua franca. It serves as the foundation for controlled natural languages, and as the primary working language for numerous international organizations. The language is also one of the six official working languages of the UN.

Mandarin Chinese

Native speakers: 929 million speakers
Total number of speakers: 1.118 billion speakers

The most common language of China's 7 to 10 major dialect groups is Mandarin Chinese, which is spoken by more than 70% of the country's population. Since most of the varieties of Mandarin are spoken in North China, where it also has its roots, this language is often referred to as Northern Chinese. The language serves as the foundation for Modern Standard Chinese.

There are four subgroups in Mandarin Chinese: Northern Mandarin, Northwestern Mandarin, Southwestern Mandarin, and Southern (Lower Yangtze) Mandarin. The language also uses four tones to identify between words and syllables: level, rising, falling, and high-rising.

Hindi

Native speakers: 343.9 million speakers
Total number of speakers: 602.2 million speakers

Modern Standard Hindi or Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language of the Indo-European family languages and it is used in northern, central, eastern, and western India. The language serves as the official language of 9 states and 3 union territories, and it is one of the two official languages of the Indian government. The language has been heavily inspired by Sanskrit and is written using the Devanagari script, a form of segmental writing system based on the historic Brahmi script.

Although they do not use the Standard Hindi language, many other languages, like Fiji Hindi and Caribbean Hindustani, are officially recognized as Hindi. Additionally, Hindi-speaking communities can also be found in South Africa, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Yemen, Uganda, and more places all over the world.

Spanish

Native speakers: 474.7 million speakers
Total number of speakers: 548.3 million speakers

Spanish or Español is a member of the Ibero-Romance language family. The language came from a variety of Vulgar Latin dialects spoken on the Iberian Peninsula of Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. Today, Spanish is known as the second-most widely spoken native language and the official language of 20 countries. The majority of the world's Spanish-speaking communities live in Mexico.

Except for Brazil, Spanish is spoken in the majority of Central and South America, the Canary Islands, some regions of Morocco, and the Philippines. Spanish is spoken in many different regional dialects throughout Latin America, yet they all emerged from Castilian with various phonetic differences from European Spanish.

French

Native speakers: 79.9 million speakers
Total number of speakers: 274.1 million speakers

One of the six official languages of the UN is French. The language emerged from Gallo-Romance spoken in Gaul and it was also influenced by the native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul. There are two forms of French: Old French and Middle French. Now, French is the official language of 29 countries, the majority of which are OIF members, or the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.

The earliest thing that appears to have been written around 842 in French was the “Strasbourg Oaths,” which were the oaths taken by two of Charlemagne's grandsons. The second Old French text that is preserved is a little passage about St. Eulalia’s life written by Prudentius sometime in 880-882. Other French-language writings in the 10th century include “the Passion du Christ” and “La Vie de St. Léger.”

Bengali

Native speakers: 233.7 million speakers
Total number of speakers: 272.2 million speakers

The official language of Bangladesh is Bengali, sometimes known as Bangla. Bengali is the fifth most widely spoken Indo-European language and the seventh most widely spoken language in the world. Additionally, the language serves as the second official language in the states of Jharkhand in India and Karachi in Pakistan, as well as the official language of the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and Barak Valley of Assam.

There are two main forms of written Bengali: the Sadhubhasa (formal speech) and the Chaltibhasa (informal speech). There are also three dialectical categories in Bengali such as standardized vs regional, literary vs colloquial, and vocabulary distinctions. Moreover, Suniti Kumar Chatterji and Sukumar Sen, two Indian linguists, classified Bengali dialects into five groups: Eastern Bangali dialect, Rarhi dialect, Varendri dialect, Rangpuri dialect, and Manbumi dialect

Russian

Native speakers: 154 million speakers
Total number of speakers: 258.2 million speakers

Russian is one of the four living East Slavic languages and it is the official language in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia. It is the most spoken native language in Europe, the seventh most spoken language by the number of native speakers, the eighth most spoken language by the total number of speakers, and one of the two official languages of the International Space Station.

The language has been strongly influenced by the Old Church Slavonic and the languages spoken in Western Europe. Alexander Pushkin, one of Russia's greatest poets, contributed significantly to the development of the Russian language by creating a simplified version of the language for daily conversations. Russian is a relatively homogenous language, but its dialects are divided into three categories: the Northern Group, the Southern Group, and the Central Group.

Portuguese

Native speakers: 232.4 million speakers
Total number of speakers: 257.7 million speakers

Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Angola. It is also the co-official language of Macau, Equatorial Guinea, and East Timor. Portuguese is known to be the third-most spoken European language and the second most spoken Romance language. Additionally, a country or person who speaks Portuguese is referred to as “Lusophone.”

According to UNESCO, Portuguese is one of the world's fastest-growing European languages and it has the potential to be an "international communication language." There are only two varieties of Portuguese that are taught, namely Brazilian and European Portuguese. Even though Portuguese is a language spoken in many various countries, it is crucial to remember that certain linguistic features and sounds are unique to the region in which it is spoken. For example, there are several sounds and characteristics of Brazilian Portuguese that are only specific to Brazil and not found in Portugal.

Japanese

Native speakers: 125.3 million speakers
Total number of speakers: 125.4 million speakers

Japanese, aka Nihongo, is a member of the Japanese-Ryukyuan language group. There is little information about the origins of the Japanese language, but certain Chinese papers from the 3rd century AD contain recordings of a few Japanese phrases.

Fact: Japanese is known as a language isolate, which indicates that it is unrelated to other languages; therefore, it cannot be categorized into larger language families.

Japanese dialects can be divided into four categories: Kyushu, Hachijo, Western Japanese (Osaka, Kyoto, Shikoku), and Eastern Japanese (Kanto, Tohoku, Hokkaido). The various Japanese dialects can be distinguished by their vocabulary, inflections, and pitch accent. However, these different dialects are mutually unintelligible. For example, people who live in Western Japan will have a difficult time understanding Akita's northern dialect speakers.

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