The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (2023)

Determining what are the most spoken languages in the world is a more difficult task than you might imagine. We can say with some confidence that Mandarin, English, Spanish and Arabic will make an appearance (and roughly in what order), but there are some surprises, too! Would you have guessed that Bengali is in the top 10 most spoken languages?

One small caveat: Assigning hard data, in the form of “X million native speakers,” to any of these languages is practically impossible. What constitutesa language or a dialectis hotly contested stuff. More troubling is the fact that what we refer to simply as “Chinese” is actually a whole family of languages conveniently lumped into a single category. “Hindi” is also used as a catchall term to cover numerous dialects and sub-dialects. We haven’t even yet acknowledged the unreliability of data sources, collected at different times by different institutions. The numbers below are taken compiled byethnologist, which is widely considered the most complete language data source currently in existence.

But then again, who doesn’t love a good list? So we’ve compiled two versions for you.

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (1)

Top 10 Languages By Number Of Native Speakers

When tallied according to number of native speakers only, these are the most spoken languages in the world.

1. Chinese — 1.3 Billion Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (2)

Numbers vary widely —ethnologistputs the number of native speakers at 1.3 billion native speakers, roughly 900 million of whom speakMandarin— but there’s no doubt it’s the most spoken language in the world. If you wish to learn a language that one in six people in the world speak, this is the one for you. Seeing as Chinese is atonal languagethat uses thousands of logograms, it will certainly keep you busy.

2. Spanish — 485 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (3)

If we were only to look at native speakers, Spanish is in front of English with about 485 million speakers. If you want a language that will open up whole continents to you, Spanish is your best bet. As with all the languages on this list, the politics of language and associated identity are highly disputed: ask Catalan or Quechua speakers if Spanish is their local tongue and you will get a very different answer. But it is certainly the primary language of most of South and Central America, Spain, and,ahem,large swathes of the US.

3. English — 373 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (4)

If you’re reading this article, you may be one of the 370 million-odd native English speakers, or one of the billion people who speak it as a second language. This indicates the remarkable success of English as thelingua francaof business, travel and international relations. The relative ease with which English can be picked up (especially compared with Chinese) and the pervasive soft power of U.S. culture means that English will continue to dominate the world stage for the foreseeable future. For some, English is still synonymous with opportunity and a better quality of life.

4. Arabic — 362 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (5)

Recent numbers put Arabic at around 362 million native speakers. But this is another instance of numbers not telling the full tale: Arabic, like Chinese, is so vastly different in its respective dialects as to be effectively a number of languages, grouped as one for the sake of convenience. Modern Standard Arabic is a primarily written form, closely related to the Classical Arabic of the Quran. However, the spoken forms of Arabic in, say, Oman and Morocco are so different that a couple of philosophy professors from these countries might be able to discuss the finer points of the ancient texts while still struggling to order lunch.

5. Hindi — 344 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (6)

India has 23official languages, with Hindi/Urdu chief among them. Whether this is one language —Hindustani— or two dialects is still fiercely debated. Spoken mainly in northern India and parts of Pakistan, Hindi usesdevnagriscript, while Urdu uses Persian notation. If you ever travel in the Indian subcontinent, a little Hindi will get you a long way. Plus, this is the language that gave usshampoo,jungle,jodhpursandbungalow— what’s not to love?

6. Bengali — 234 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (7)

Admit it: you didn’t expect Bengali to be on the list of most spoken languages. The Partition of Bengal by the British in 1947 divided (mainly Hindu) West Bengal, now part of India, from its (mainly Muslim) counterpart East Bengal, now Bangladesh. It is the language of Kolkata, the Andaman Islands, fabulous sweets and 130-odd million Bangladeshis — many of whom are extremely vulnerable to climate change. By the next century, the population is projected to double while 15 percent of the land area is expected to disappear below rising seas.

7. Portuguese — 232 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (8)

This is another language whose reach owes much to its colonial past. Starting in the 15th century, avid Portuguese traders and conquerors brought their language to Africa, Asia and the Americas. The spread of Portuguese may have initially been tied to European colonization, but the colonized countries developed their own vibrant cultures that transformed the language forever. Today, Portuguese is spoken by232 million native speakersin countries like Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and São Tomé and Príncipe. It's also the language of Machado de Assis, Bossa Nova, Mia Couto, Fernando Pessoa and Agualusa.

8. Russian — 154 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (9)

With roughly 154 million native speakers, Russian is the eighth most spoken language in the world. Famed for its inscrutable grammar and quite lovely Cyrillic script, it remains one of the six languages spoken in the United Nations, and produced the literary likes of Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, Chekhov, Gogol, Tolstoy and Pushkin.

9. Japanese — 125 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (10)

Almost all of the 125 million native Japanese speakers live in Japan — certainly the most highly geographically concentrated of all the languages on this list. Japanese boasts two distinct writing systems,hiraganaandkatakana, as well making extensive use of ChineseKanjicharacters. The largest groups of Japanese speakers living outside Japan can be found in the United States, the Philippines and Brazil.

10. Lahnda (Western Punjabi) — 101 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (11)

With varying estimates of around 100 million native speakers, the last spot on the list goes to… Lahnda, a Pakistani macrolanguage that primarily includes Western Punjabi! (Sorry,German— you got dumped from top world languages a few years back.) That doesn’t even include Eastern Punjabi, which is spoken in India. The Punjab was sliced in two by the British when they left, and millions of people were forced to abandon their homes, businesses and families. But they’re slowly taking their revenge, Bollywood-style: Punjabi songs now account for 50 percent of chart-toppers. That’s a comeback if we’ve ever seen one.

Top 10 Languages By Total NumberOf Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (12)

When we count the top 10 most spoken languages according to thetotal numberof people who speak them (whether or not the language is their mother tongue), eight of the 10 languages from the list above still make an appearance, but with a few major differences: English narrowly edges out Chinese for the top spot, Japanese and Punjabi lose their spots, and French and Indonesian join the top 10 thanks to the fact that more people speak them as a second language than as a native language.

1. English

1.452 billion total speakers

2. Mandarin Chinese

1.119 billion total speakers

3. Hindi

602 million total speakers

4. Spanish

559 million total speakers

5. Standard Arabic

274 million total speakers

6. French

274 million total speakers

7. Bengali

273 million total speakers

8. Russian

258 million total speakers

9. Portuguese

258 million total speakers

10. Urdu

231 million total speakers

Illustrations by Victoria Fernandez.

This article was originally published in 2015. It has been updated with more recent data and information.


Which is the world no 1 spoken language? ›

1. English (1,452 million speakers) According to Ethnologue, English is the most-spoken language in the world including native and non-native speakers. Like Latin or Greek at the time, English has become the world's common language.

What is the top 5 languages spoken in the world? ›

What Are The Most Spoken Languages in the World?
LanguageTotal Number of Speakers
Mandarin Chinese1,118,000,000
29 more rows

What are the 8 world languages? ›

  • Arabic.
  • English.
  • French.
  • Latin.
  • Russian.
  • Spanish.

What's the hardest language to learn? ›

Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center puts Mandarin in Category IV, which is the list of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.

How many languages speak 90% of world? ›

Which are the most widely spoken languages in the world? Some, such as English and Spanish seem obvious, but others may surprise you. Around 7,139 languages are spoken in the world, 90% of which are used in communities of less than 100,000 people, such as tribes or dialects within certain populations.

What's the easiest language to learn? ›

We've used data from the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) to rank them from the easier to the somewhat more challenging.
  • Frisian. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
Oct 24, 2021

Which language is easy to learn? ›

‍The clear winner from the 7 easiest languages to learn is Spanish. Everything from writing, grammar, and speaking will come more naturally to the English speaker. Similar rules, structure, and Latin roots. If you are interested in learning Spanish or any other of these easy languages, we can help you at Jumpspeak.

Which language is best to learn? ›

The 7 Best Languages To Learn
  1. Spanish. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language after Mandarin, and not a surprise at the top of languages to learn. ...
  2. German. ...
  3. Arabic. ...
  4. Mandarin. ...
  5. Portuguese. ...
  6. Russian. ...
  7. French.
Oct 19, 2022

What is the fastest language in the world? ›

As we've already mentioned, Japanese is considered the fastest language in the world. It is always mentioned as the first on the list. So, here are 6 of the fastest spoken languages in the world, based on the average number of syllables spoken per second (SPS): Japanese - 7.84 SPS.

What are the 7 000 languages? ›

7000 Languages is a non-profit that helps Indigenous communities around the world teach, learn and sustain their languages through technology. We create free online language-learning courses in partnership with Indigenous, minority, and refugee communities so they can keep their languages alive.

What are the 4 universal languages? ›

The 4 Most Common Languages Spoken Around the World
  • English. While only about 360 million people are native English speakers, 1.5 billion people worldwide can speak English. ...
  • Mandarin Chinese. Over 1.1 billion people speak Mandarin, but Chinese is not a single language. ...
  • Hindustani. ...
  • Spanish.
Jun 19, 2019

What is the universal language? ›

Universal language is the language that everyone can use to communicate with others without considering their spoken language. Nonverbal communication is an effective, universal method of successful communication.

What are the big 3 languages? ›

Which Languages Have the Most Speakers?
RankLanguageNative Speakers
1Mandarin Chinese918 million
2Spanish460 million
3English379 million
4Hindi341 million
6 more rows
Feb 15, 2020

What is the top 3 hardest language to learn? ›

Let's explore the 10 hardest languages for English speakers to learn, and the challenges they deliver:
  1. Mandarin. Mandarin is spoken by 70% of the Chinese population, and is the most spoken language in the world. ...
  2. Arabic. ...
  3. Japanese. ...
  4. Hungarian. ...
  5. Korean. ...
  6. Finnish. ...
  7. Basque. ...
  8. Navajo.
Sep 16, 2022

Why is English the hardest language to learn? ›

Most English language learners will find it challenging to learn English verb tenses, phrasal verbs, articles, spelling, pronunciation, and idioms. This is because these are features of English that are very different from most other languages in the world, or which simply require a lot of memorization.

What is an impressive number of languages to speak? ›

Multilingual is fluent in more than four languages, and they are only 3% of the entire population. Some people can speak more than five languages, and they are known as polyglots. They are less than one percent of the population. Hyperpolyglots are fluent in more than 12 languages, and they are sporadic to find.

How many languages will survive? ›

Language extinction

Many of the languages ​​spoken today are in constant extinction. Linguistic predictions say that of 6,000 languages that are globally ​​spoken today, around 600 of them after 100 years will have simplified versions or will not exist at all.

What is the closest language to English? ›

The closest language to English is one called Frisian, which is a Germanic language spoken by a small population of about 480,000 people. There are three separate dialects of the language, and it's only spoken at the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany.

What are the 3 easiest languages? ›

Of these, Spanish and Italian are the easiest for native English speakers to learn, followed by Portuguese and finally French.

What language is most like English? ›

Except for Frisian, Dutch is linguistically the closest language to English, with both languages being part of the West Germanic linguistic family. This means many Dutch words are cognates with English (meaning they share the same linguistic roots), giving them similar spelling and pronunciation.

What is the 5 hardest language to learn? ›

5 of the most hardest languages to learn in the world
  • Mandarin.
  • Japanese.
  • Arabic.
  • Xhosa.
  • Russian.

Which foreign language is in demand? ›

1. French (Français) French is the most popular foreign language in India, and the reasons to learn French are apparent. With over 30 Francophone countries around the globe, It is spoken by roughly 300 million French speakers globally.

What language did Jesus speak? ›

Aramaic is best known as the language Jesus spoke. It is a Semitic language originating in the middle Euphrates. In 800-600 BC it spread from there to Syria and Mesopotamia. The oldest preserved inscriptions are from this period and written in Old Aramaic.

What is the sweetest language in the world? ›

According to a UNESCO survey, Bengali has been classified as the sweetest language in the world. As a language, Bengali is widely spoken all over India, including Assam and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The sweetest language in the world is also recognized in the Constitution of India.

Who speaks faster Spanish or English? ›

Spanish is in second place with around 8-9 syllables spoken per second, whereas, English is in eight place with around 6-7 syllables spoken per second. In other words, Spanish native speakers speak 25% more quickly than English native speakers.

What language takes the longest to learn? ›

The most difficult languages — Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Japanese — require, on average, 1.69 years (88 weeks), or 2,200 class hours, to reach speaking and reading proficiency. Each of the four "hard" languages is difficult for its own reasons.

What is the shortest language ever? ›

That metaphorical process is at the heart of Toki Pona, the world's smallest language. While the Oxford English Dictionary contains a quarter of a million entries, and even Koko the gorilla communicates with over 1,000 gestures in American Sign Language, the total vocabulary of Toki Pona is a mere 123 words.

What is the best language to America? ›

English is by far the most prominent spoken language in the U.S., with over 239 million English-speaking people across the country.

What is the most taught language in US? ›

1. Spanish. It's only natural that Spanish would come in at number one as Mexico is right next to the US. Again, unsurprising is the fact that over 50% of university students choose to study in Spanish in order to hone their language skills.

Are there dead languages? ›

Currently, there are 573 known extinct languages. These are languages that are no longer spoken or studied. Many were local dialects with no records of their alphabet or wording, and so are forever lost. Others were major languages of their time, but society and changing cultures left them behind.

What is the most extinct language? ›

Top 6 dead languages list – When and why have they died?
  • Latin Dead Language: Latin as a dead language was one of the most enriched languages. ...
  • Sanskrit Dead Language: ...
  • Coptic No Longer Alive: ...
  • Biblical Hebrew Expired Language: ...
  • Ancient Greek Departed Language: ...
  • Akkadian No Longer Alive:
Feb 16, 2021

What is the language everyone can understand? ›

Esperanto (/ˌɛspəˈrɑːntoʊ/ or /ˌɛspəˈræntoʊ/) is the world's most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Created by the Warsaw-based ophthalmologist L. L.

Who actually spoke Latin? ›

Originally spoken by small groups of people living along the lower Tiber River, Latin spread with the increase of Roman political power, first throughout Italy and then throughout most of western and southern Europe and the central and western Mediterranean coastal regions of Africa.

What language has more words? ›

Korean includes many words of Chinese origin, and borrows words from English and other languages as well. Still, it's a stretch to say that Korean has the most words of any language in the world because one of its dictionaries has over a million headwords.

Does the US have a universal language? ›

There may be no official language, but there are at least 350 different languages spoken in the United States.

Is there a universal language in America? ›

The United States does not have an official language at the federal level, but the most commonly used language is English (specifically, American English), which is the de facto national language. It is also the language spoken at home by the great majority of the U.S. population (approximately 78.5%).

Will English become the world language? ›

English will most likely not become the dominant world language as more people speak more than one language, a language expert reports. The world faces a future of people speaking more than one language, with English no longer seen as likely to become dominant, a British language expert says in a new analysis.

What do most Asians speak? ›

What Are The Most Spoken Languages In Asia?
LanguageNumber of Speakers
Mandarin Chinese1,200,000,000
16 more rows
Dec 15, 2022

What are the six global languages? ›

There are six official languages of the UN. These are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

What is a triple language? ›

Bilingual – Two different languages. Trilingual – Three different languages. Polyglot – (Three)/Four+ different languages. Hyperpolyglot – Six+ different languages.

What are the 23 most spoken languages in the world? ›

The Top 23 Languages On Earth

Chinese, English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Persian, German, Russian, Malay, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish, Lahnda, Tamil, Urdu, Korean, Hindi, Bengali, Japanese, Vietnamese, Telugu, and Marathi. Chances are you speak at least one of these languages fluently.

What are the top 100 most spoken language? ›

Which Languages Have the Most Speakers?
RankLanguageLanguage Origin
1Mandarin ChineseSino-Tibetan
6 more rows
Feb 15, 2020

What are the top 30 most spoken languages in the world? ›

Top 30 languages of the world
  • Mandarin Chinese. NATIVE: 873 million. 2nd: 178 million. ...
  • Hindi. NATIVE: 370 million. 2nd:120 million. ...
  • Spanish. NATIVE: 350 million. 2nd: 70 million. ...
  • English. NATIVE: 340 million. ...
  • Arabic. NATIVE: 206 million. ...
  • Portuguese. NATIVE: 203 million. ...
  • Bengali. NATIVE: 196 million. ...
  • Russian. NATIVE: 145 million.

What is the top 20 most spoken languages? ›

These are the most spoken languages in the world
  • English – 1,121 million speakers. ...
  • Mandarin Chinese – 1,107 million speakers. ...
  • Hindi – 698 million speakers. ...
  • Spanish – 512 million speakers. ...
  • French – 284 million speakers. ...
  • Arabic – 273 million speakers. ...
  • Bengali – 265 million inhabitants. ...
  • Russian – 258 million speakers.
Jun 4, 2022

What is the most useful language to learn after English? ›

The 7 Best Languages To Learn
  1. Spanish. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language after Mandarin, and not a surprise at the top of languages to learn. ...
  2. German. ...
  3. Arabic. ...
  4. Mandarin. ...
  5. Portuguese. ...
  6. Russian. ...
  7. French.
Oct 19, 2022

How many languages is impressive to speak? ›

You cannot help but be impressed when you meet someone who is able to speak several languages. It is already impressive when a person can speak two or three languages, but when an individual can speak four or more, then it is something amazing.

What is the most common language? ›

The 4 Most Common Languages Spoken Around the World
  1. English. While only about 360 million people are native English speakers, 1.5 billion people worldwide can speak English. ...
  2. Mandarin Chinese. Over 1.1 billion people speak Mandarin, but Chinese is not a single language. ...
  3. Hindustani. ...
  4. Spanish.
Jun 19, 2019

What is the most common second language in the world? ›

English takes the crown as the most common second language around the world with 55 countries speaking it as a second language. France and Russia are second and third with 14 and 13 respectively. The languages are grouped and colour-coded by language family (languages with a common ancestor).


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Last Updated: 24/08/2023

Views: 6234

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Birthday: 1992-02-16

Address: Suite 851 78549 Lubowitz Well, Wardside, TX 98080-8615

Phone: +67618977178100

Job: Manufacturing Director

Hobby: Running, Mountaineering, Inline skating, Writing, Baton twirling, Computer programming, Stone skipping

Introduction: My name is Wyatt Volkman LLD, I am a handsome, rich, comfortable, lively, zealous, graceful, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.