Languages form an essential part of human civilization and set it apart from other creatures on Earth. Through language, it is possible to share ideas and convey messages to understand each other better.
With the rise in population and cultural diversity across the globe, today, we have more than 66,000 languages spoken worldwide. But some of these languages are more commonly spoken than others. In this article, we uncover the seven most spoken languages globally.
English is the most spoken language globally, with around 1.5 billion speakers. As a result, it has become the lingua franca – a status that a language receives when it becomes the standard for communication for people from various backgrounds.
Several countries have ascribed English the status of a second or third official language due to its global importance.
It is also the common language of instruction in most educational institutes. The business sector, thanks to globalization, relies on English as well. The movies and shows we watch to the books we read are primarily in English.
English is preferred when learning a new language. There are more language learning resources in English than in any other language. English does not have alternatives to certain words from other languages. Specifically, those words that have a cultural context.
For instance, the Russian word “razbliuto” does not have an English alternative. So if you google “razbliuto Russian to English translate,” the search results will show you the meaning but not an English alternative because there aren’t any.
English is widely used across the globe. Though it is native to Western nations, it is widely used for communication in other parts of the world. Moreover, the importance of and dependence on English increased during the pandemic and is expected to grow.
After English, Mandarin Chinese is the most commonly spoken language around the globe. With 1.1 billion speakers, Chinese is creeping up to the level of English as a common language. One of the reasons for this could be China being the most populated country globally, at 1.4 billion. Chinese is also the official language of Taiwan and Singapore, making it even more popular.
Chinese has different dialects; for example, Cantonese is commonly spoken in Hong Kong, Guang Zhou, and southern regions of China. In contrast, Mandarin is more common in Taiwan and Mainland China. Regardless, Mandarin is the most widely spoken form of Chinese.
Chinese is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Interestingly, a lot of corporations want employees who are fluent in Mandarin. In addition, China has a strong foothold in the global economy, so your Mandarin lessons would help.
Although very challenging to learn, Mandarin is a promising language. You get to understand and study one of the oldest cultures and traditions in the world.
After Chinese and English, Hindi bags the score for the most widely spoken language. Although it’s only the official language of India, it has over 650 million speakers. In contrast, India has a population of almost 1.4 billion. Hindi belongs to the Indo-Aryan group of languages that fall under Indo-European, thus having a lot of historical importance. Having evolved from Sanskrit, Hindi is an ancient language. It is close to one of the oldest religions in the world – Hinduism. Through its language and art, Hinduism has influenced a lot of other languages and traditions. So much so that languages like English and Urdu have borrowed many words from the Hindi language. Words like “guru,” “yoga,” and “bungalow” are all borrowed from Hindi!
Hindi is also widely spoken in other parts of the world like Nepal, Mauritius, Fiji, and Guyana.
Spanish, just like Hindi, belongs to the family of Indo-European languages. More than 534 million people speak it across the globe. Spanish has borrowed its writing style from Italian, another one from the Indo-European sub-family. Spanish shares commonalities with other Romance languages like French, Portuguese, and Romanian.
Surprisingly, not Hindi or Mandarin, but Spanish is the second most-studied language around the globe. It is also the official language of twenty-two countries spread over four continents. That’s also because Spanish is considered the most accessible foreign language for most English speakers. Some say it takes less than twenty-five weeks to master the basics of the Spanish language.
Another fantastic fact about Spanish is that the first modern novel and the second most-translated book, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, was initially written in Spanish.
Spanish is so widespread that around 10% of the global population would be fluent in it within three generations.
Considered the most audibly pleasing language globally, French has over 280 million speakers. It stems from Latin and shares commonality with Italian, Romanian, Spanish, and Portuguese.
The modern English language has borrowed quite many words from the French language. For example, words like “genre,” “mirage,” and “déjà vu” have a French origin.
Contrary to popular opinion, French is not only spoken in the beautiful land of France. It is the official language in Canada, Belgium, Congo, Madagascar, and Monaco.
Arabic has four different types of dialects – Egyptian, Maghrebi, Gulf, and Levantine. With over 400 million speakers all over the globe spread across twenty-eight countries, Arabic is an ancient language. It has significance in literature, business, trade, and the Islamic religion. Arabic is further divided into three categories – Classical Arabic (the one dear to Islamic tradition), Modern Standard Arabic, and Daily Arabic.
Arabic comes from the Semitic group of languages and the sub-group of Afro-Asiatic languages. It draws similarities to Hebrew, Aramaic, and Amharic languages. European languages like Portuguese and Spanish have also influenced Arabic; perhaps some words have similar pronunciations.
After Arabic, Bengalis is the most widely spoken language in the world. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan family of languages, just like Hindi. Bengali is spoken by more than 260 million people worldwide. Due to geographical and historical commonality, Bengali shares some ground with Punjabi and Hindi. Bengali also goes by the name Bangla and is a gender-free language. The Bengali alphabet is also unique. Every consonant has an unusual vowel sound. Various marks can change the vowel sound and even the word’s meaning.
More than 60,000 languages are spoken across the globe so this article could become unimaginably long. Still, we have covered the seven most widely spoken languages globally. Languages offer a unique gateway into the cultures and traditions they are set in. Languages not only help with communication but understanding its native people and places.