The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (2022)

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 constitutes a language or a dialect is 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 by Ethnologue, 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 — Ethnologue puts the number of native speakers at 1.3 billion native speakers, roughly 1.1 billion of whom speak Mandarin — 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 a tonal language that uses thousands of logograms, it will certainly keep you busy.

2. Spanish — 471 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (3)

(Video) The 10 Most Widely Spoken Languages in the World

If we were only to look at native speakers, Spanish has its nose in front of English with about 471 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 — 370 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 978 million people who speak it as a second language. This indicates the remarkable success of English as the lingua franca of 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 US 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. Hindi — 342 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (5)

India has 23 official 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 uses devnagri script, 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 us shampoo, jungle, jodhpurs and bungalow — what’s not to love?

5. Arabic — 315 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (6)

Recent numbers put Arabic at around 315 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.

6. Portuguese — 232 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (7)

(Video) 10 Most Spoken Languages in The World

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 by 232 million native speakers in countries like Brazil, Goa, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bisseau, São Tomé and Príncipe and Macau. It’s also the language of Machado de Assis, Bossa Nova, Mia Couto, Fernando Pessoa and Agualusa.

7. Bengali — 229 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (8)

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.

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 — 126 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (10)

Almost all of the 126 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, hiragana and katakana, as well making extensive use of Chinese Kanji characters. The largest groups of Japanese speakers living outside Japan can be found in the United States, the Philippines and Brazil.

10. Lahnda (Western Punjabi) — 118 Million Native Speakers

The 10 Most Spoken Languages In The World (11)

(Video) The most spoken Languages in the world (1900 2020)

With varying estimates of around 118 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

When we count the top 10 most spoken languages according to the total number of 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

1.348 billion total speakers

2. Mandarin Chinese

1.120 billion total speakers

3. Hindi

600 million total speakers

(Video) Most Spoken Languages in the world 2022

4. Spanish

543 million total speakers

5. Standard Arabic

274 million total speakers

6. Bengali

268 million total speakers

7. French

267 million total speakers

8. Russian

258 million total speakers

9. Portuguese

258 million total speakers

10. Urdu

230 million total speakers

Illustrations by Victoria Fernandez.

(Video) Top 10: Most Spoken Languages (by Native Speakers)

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

FAQs

What is the top 10 most spoken languages in the world? ›

So keep reading to find out what the most spoken languages are.
  • English (1,132 million speakers)
  • Mandarin (1,117 million speakers)
  • Hindi (615 million speakers)
  • Spanish (534 million speakers)
  • French (280 million speakers)
  • Arabic (274 million speakers)
  • Russian (258 million speakers)
  • Portuguese (234 million speakers)
2 Sept 2021

What is the top 10 most spoken languages in the world 2022? ›

Top 40 most spoken languages in the world 2022
RankName of the languageTotal Speakers
1stEnglish1.348 billion
2ndMandarin Chinese1.120 billion
3rdHindi600 million
4thSpanish543 million
40 more rows
5 Aug 2022

What is the top 10 most spoken language in the world 2021? ›

List of most spoken languages in the world 2021
RankLanguageTotal speakers
1English1.348 billion
2Mandarin Chinese1.120 billion
3Hindi600 million
4Spanish543 million
40 more rows
26 Nov 2021

Who is No 1 language in world? ›

It comes as no surprise that English reigns supreme, with over 1.1 billion total speakers—or roughly 15% of the global population. Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and French round out the top five.

What's the most spoken language in the world 2022? ›

Online language tool Babbel reports that English is the most spoken language in the world, with a number of speakers totaling more than 1.4 billion in 2022, according to Statistic & Data. This combines both native and non-native speakers.

What was the first spoken language? ›

Thus, given this evidence, Sumerian can also be considered the first language in the world. Sumerian was gradually replaced by Akkadian as a spoken language around 2000 BC, but it continued to be used as a literary, ceremonial, scientific and sacred language until the 1st century AD.

What language is most used? ›

Mandarin Chinese – 1.118 Billion Speakers

Mandarin Chinese is also the official language of Singapore and Taiwan. There are many other languages in China (like Cantonese), but Mandarin is by far the most widely spoken. Many people mistake Mandarin for the most spoken language in the world.

How many languages are there in the world 2022? ›

Ethnologue, an online publication that provides data on the languages of the world, reports that there are 7,151 living languages.

What is the most beautiful language? ›

1. Italian. When it comes to the most attractive languages, for many people the native language of Italy likely springs to mind. Italian is a famously beautiful language with its rolled 'r's, round vowels, and melodic rhythm.

Which language is oldest in world? ›

World's oldest language is Sanskrit. The Sanskrit language is called Devbhasha. All European languages ​​seem inspired by Sanskrit. All the universities and educational institutions spread across the world consider Sanskrit as the most ancient language.

Which language is best to learn? ›

The 10 Best Languages to Learn in 2022 (and where to learn them)
  1. Chinese. Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world—spoken in some form by 1.2 billion people—so it only makes sense to include it on this list. ...
  2. Spanish. ...
  3. Korean. ...
  4. French. ...
  5. German. ...
  6. 6. Japanese. ...
  7. Italian. ...
  8. Portuguese.
20 Jun 2022

Which language is hardest to learn? ›

Generally, if you're an English speaker with no exposure to other languages, here are some of the most challenging and difficult languages to learn:
  • Mandarin Chinese.
  • Arabic.
  • Vietnamese.
  • Finnish.
  • Japanese.
  • Korean.

What are the 7 major languages of the world? ›

Top 10 Most Spoken First Languages in 2022

Currently, these are the 10 most spoken languages in the world in 2022, sorted by number of mother language speakers: Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Bengali, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Yue chinese, Vietnamese.

What's the easiest language to learn? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers -...
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
24 Oct 2021

How many countries speak English? ›

English is the official language of 67 different countries and 27 non-sovereign entities around the world. But apart from that, English is also spoken in many countries where it's not an official language. In fact, some countries where English is commonly spoken may have more than one official language.

What is least spoken language in the world? ›

Current data states that there are only 7 remaining speakers of the language. Written records are available, such as a dictionary and several books that show the grammar and syntax of the Dumi language. Dumi is the world's least spoken language and one of the rarest.

How many languages exist in the world? ›

What are the world's most spoken languages? Well, more than 7,100 languages are spoken in the world today.

How many languages are there in world? ›

7,151 languages are spoken today.

And beyond that, the languages themselves are in flux. They're living and dynamic, spoken by communities whose lives are shaped by our rapidly changing world. This is a fragile time: Roughly 40% of languages are now endangered, often with fewer than 1,000 speakers remaining.

How old is English? ›

Old English – the earliest form of the English language – was spoken and written in Anglo-Saxon Britain from c. 450 CE until c. 1150 (thus it continued to be used for some decades after the Norman Conquest of 1066).

What is the mother of all languages? ›

SANSKRIT is one of the official languages of India, and is popularly known as a classical language of the country. Considered to be the Mother of all Languages, it belongs to the Indic group of language family of Indo-European and its descendents, which are Indo-Iranian and Indo-Aryan.

How old is Arabic? ›

Arabic has been around for at least 1,500 years. Historians believe that the Arabic language came from Arabian Peninsula. Old Arabic was the beginning of Arabic dialects. Safaitic dialect is the earliest dialect in old Arabic, which the Syro-Arabian desert nomadic tribes used.

Which country has most languages? ›

Papua New Guinea is the most multilingual country, with over 839 living languages, according to Ethnologue, a catalogue of the world's known languages.

What are the three most important languages in the world? ›

The Most Important Languages To Learn In 2021
  1. Mandarin Chinese. With over one billion Mandarin Chinese speakers in the world, of course it tops the list of most important languages to learn in 2021. ...
  2. Spanish. ...
  3. German. ...
  4. French. ...
  5. Arabic. ...
  6. Russian. ...
  7. Portuguese. ...
  8. 8. Japanese.
18 May 2020

Why is English popular? ›

Some of the reasons for the English Language's popularity today include: The rise of the British Empire and The United States, developments within the science and technology industries, and the fact the English Language is gender free, among a number of other reasons.

How do you say I love you in every language? ›

Learning how to say “I love you” in another language is not always as simple as translating the phrase and practicing its pronunciation.
...
How to say “I love you” in other languages.
Language"I love you"
FrenchJe t'aime
GermanIch liebe dich
GreekΣ'αγαπώ
HungarianSzeretlek
18 more rows
10 Feb 2022

When was English created? ›

Having emerged from the dialects and vocabulary of Germanic peoples—Angles, Saxons, and Jutes—who settled in Britain in the 5th century CE, English today is a constantly changing language that has been influenced by a plethora of different cultures and languages, such as Latin, French, Dutch, and Afrikaans.

Which is the richest language in the world? ›

The Top 10 Business Languages of the World in 2018 by GDP (IMF)
RankLanguage% of World GDP
1English20.77%
2Chinese19.64%
3Spanish6.04%
4Arabic5.25%
6 more rows
29 Nov 2018

Which language has the most sounds? ›

With five distinct kinds of clicks, multiple tones and strident vowels — vocalized with a quick choking sound — the Taa language, spoken by a few thousand people in Botswana and Namibia, is believed by most linguists to have the largest sound inventory of any tongue in the world.

Which language is sweetest 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.

What was the first country? ›

Oldest Countries 2022
CountryAge RankSovereignty Acquired
Iran13200 BC
Egypt23100 BC
Vietnam32879 BC
Armenia42492 BC
11 more rows

Which language did Adam and Eve speak? ›

The Adamic language, according to Jewish tradition (as recorded in the midrashim) and some Christians, is the language spoken by Adam (and possibly Eve) in the Garden of Eden.

What is a fun language to learn? ›

Spanish. Its usefulness aside (more than 400 million people speak it natively), Spanish is really entertaining to learn, especially in your first few classes when your mind will be filled with images of Speedy Gonzales, Puss in Boots, Dora the Explorer and other Latino or Spanish characters.

What language makes the most sense? ›

English came out on top, but not by much. Most of languages grouped pretty closely together, however, Japanese lagged behind the rest. Interestingly, the languages that conveyed the least amount of information per syllable, like Spanish, Japanese, and French, tended to be spoken at a faster rate.

What language is most like 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 is the top 10 hardest language? ›

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. 3. Japanese. ...
  4. Hungarian. ...
  5. Korean. ...
  6. Finnish. ...
  7. Basque. ...
  8. Navajo.
16 Sept 2022

Which language has the hardest grammar? ›

Top 10 Hardest Languages To Learn – Finnish

After the Hungarian grammar, the Finnish language has the most challenging grammar. It sounds and looks a bit similar to English because of its pronunciation and lettering.

How fast can you learn a language? ›

When it comes to learning anything, it's all about time. The US Foreign Service Institute (FSI) says that if you can study for ten hours a day, lower grouped languages take 48 days for basic fluency. Meanwhile, difficult languages should take you 72 days.

Will the whole world speak English? ›

Why Does The Whole World Speak English? - YouTube

Can you learn 2 languages at once? ›

Does it make it harder to learn them well? Answer: Thankfully, your brain can definitely handle learning two (or more!) languages at once! (Two down, 6,998 to go.)

Which language has the best grammar? ›

Arabic has the not only best grammatical structure but a most perfect in All Languages of the World.

Is English hard to learn? ›

The English language is widely regarded as one of the most difficult to master. Because of its unpredictable spelling and challenging to learn grammar, it is challenging for both learners and native speakers.

Where is the best country to live? ›

  • Canada. #1 in Quality of Life. #1 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Denmark. #2 in Quality of Life. #12 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Sweden. #3 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Norway. #4 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Switzerland. #5 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Australia. #6 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Netherlands. #7 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Finland. #8 in Quality of Life.

Which countries first language is English? ›

The "Three Circles" of English

The Inner Circle — The smallest circle, this section includes countries in which English is the native language of the majority of the population: mainly the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and much of Canada.

Which is the 2nd largest English-speaking country? ›

India is the 2nd largest English-speaking nation.

What's the hardest language to learn? ›

1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons.

What's the easiest language to learn? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers -...
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
24 Oct 2021

What is least spoken language in the world? ›

Current data states that there are only 7 remaining speakers of the language. Written records are available, such as a dictionary and several books that show the grammar and syntax of the Dumi language. Dumi is the world's least spoken language and one of the rarest.

What are the 4 main languages in the world? ›

The top 12 most spoken languages in the world
  • English (1,132 million speakers) ...
  • Mandarin Chinese (1,117 million speakers) ...
  • Hindi (615 million speakers) ...
  • Spanish (534 million speakers) ...
  • French (280 million speakers) ...
  • Arabic (274 million speakers) ...
  • Bangla/Bengali (265 million speakers) ...
  • Russian (258 million speakers)
7 Jan 2022

How many languages are there in the world in 2022? ›

Ethnologue, an online publication that provides data on the languages of the world, reports that there are 7,151 living languages.

Which language is the oldest? ›

World's oldest language is Sanskrit. The Sanskrit language is called Devbhasha. All European languages ​​seem inspired by Sanskrit. All the universities and educational institutions spread across the world consider Sanskrit as the most ancient language.

Which language is richest in words? ›

A major uniqueness of Arabic language lies in its richness. While English, French, and Russian languages have around 500,000 words, 150,000 words, and 130,000 words in its vocabulary respectively, Arabic language has 12,3 million words in its own, making it the richest language in vocabulary, by far.

Which language has the most words? ›

English

Which language has hardest grammar? ›

Top 10 Hardest Languages To Learn – Finnish

After the Hungarian grammar, the Finnish language has the most challenging grammar. It sounds and looks a bit similar to English because of its pronunciation and lettering.

What language is closest 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 is the 2nd easiest language to learn? ›

Easiest (about 600 hours of study)

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

What is a rare language? ›

Kawishana is the rarest language in the world.

What is the most popular language? ›

English is the most widely spoken language worldwide, with 1.5 billion speakers.

What country has the most languages? ›

Papua New Guinea is the most multilingual country, with over 839 living languages, according to Ethnologue, a catalogue of the world's known languages. The site ranked countries and territories based on the number of languages spoken as a first language within their borders.

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