What Are the Most Spoken Languages in the World?

While English is the international language of business, there are thousands of other languages spoken around the world every single day. If you want to be bilingual, trilingual, or even quadrilingual, you’ll want to know some of the most spoken languages in the world. This way, you can learn languages that will allow you to speak with literally billions of people!

However, this begs a few important questions. For example, how many languages are there? Of those languages, what are the most spoken languages in the world? Finally, what are the 10 most common languages and — by extension — the 10 most useful languages to learn? In today’s guide, we will answer all of these questions and more. So, let’s get started!

Top 10 Most Spoken Languages in the World

There are more than 7,100 distinct languages in the world. However, many of these are “dying languages.” In other words, only a small number of people speak these languages and they are likely to become extinct in the future. In some cases, these languages may only be spoken by a few people!

As a result, roughly half of the world’s population speaks one of just 10 languages. It’s important to note that this refers to native speakers of languages. More than a billion people speak English as a second language, but there are far fewer native speakers. In any case, let’s take a look at the 10 most common languages on Earth!

1. Chinese — 1.35 Billion

Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, with roughly 1.35 native Chinese speakers. Of this population, over 1 billion people speak Mandarin as their first language. The second most common form of Chinese is Wu, with roughly 81 million native speakers. Then comes Yue (62 million speakers), which is also known as Cantonese. After that, there are still millions of native speakers of Xiang, Min, Gan, and Hakka — all different forms of Chinese. This doesn’t even cover the hundreds of regional dialects throughout Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Tibet, and Singapore!

2. Spanish — 543 Million

The second most spoken language in the world is Spanish, with roughly 543 million native speakers. The majority of native Spanish speakers reside in Central and South America, though there are millions of native speakers throughout North America, Europe, and even Asia. Here is a full list of countries in which Spanish is the official or primary language:

  • Mexico (120 million)
  • Colombia (48 million)
  • Spain (47 million)
  • Argentina (43 million)
  • Peru (30 million)
  • Venezuela (28 million)
  • Chile (17 million)
  • Ecuador (15 million)
  • Guatemala (14 million)
  • Cuba (11 million)
  • Bolivia (10 million)
  • The Dominican Republic (10 million)
  • Honduras (8 million)
  • Paraguay (6 million)
  • El Salvador (6 million)
  • Nicaragua (5 million)
  • Costa Rica (4 million)
  • Panama (3 million)
  • Uruguay (3 million)
  • Puerto Rico (3 million)
  • Equatorial Guinea (1.5 million)

It’s important to note that there are various dialects of Spanish from around the world. For example, Argentina and Uruguay use a dialect called Castellano, which varies in its pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary from other forms of Spanish in Central and South America. Similarly, there are ten different dialects of Spanish in Spain alone!

3. Hindi — 528 Million

Hindi is the third most common language in the world with approximately 528 million speakers. This is surprising to some, as Hindi is almost exclusively spoken in India and Nepal. Nonetheless, hundreds of millions of people speak the language every day. Much like Chinese, Hindi has many regional dialects. While there are about 322 million speakers of Standard Hindi (also known as the Delhi dialect), there are seven other major dialects spoken throughout the region:

  • Awadhi (38 million)
  • Haryanvi (20 million)
  • Chhattisgarhi (18 million)
  • Kannauji (10 million)
  • Bundeli (6 million)
  • Bagheli (3 million)
  • Braj Bhasha (2 million)

4. English — 460 Million

English comes in fourth place with roughly 460 million native speakers. However, if we were to count all of the non-native speakers, English would be the most spoken language in the world! There are approximately 1.5 billion people around the world who speak English as their first or second language. So, if you’re reading this, you’re technically a speaker of the most common language in the world! 

Many countries treat English as an official, trade, or de facto (common but unofficial) language, including highly-populated countries like India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and the Philippines. However, fewer countries treat English as the primary, official, and de facto language. In any case, here are a few of the countries with the largest English-speaking populations in the world:

  • The United States (300 million)
  • The United Kingdom (60 million)
  • Canada (26 million)
  • Australia (25 million)
  • Ireland (5 million)
  • South Africa (4 million)
  • Singapore (4 million)
  • New Zealand (4 million)

5. Arabic — 315 Million

Arabic is the fifth most spoken language in the world with about 315 million speakers. Most native Arabic speakers are concentrated in the Middle East, though (like most major languages) there are native speakers living all over the planet. There are 30 recognized dialects of Arabic, including Modern Standard Arabic, which accounts for 87% of all Arabic speakers. In any case, here are some of the most populated countries where Arabic is an official (or co-official) language:

  • Egypt (56 million)
  • Sudan (42 million)
  • Algeria (34 million)
  • Iraq (31 million)
  • Saudi Arabia (27 million)
  • Morocco (19 million)
  • Yemen (18 million)
  • Syria (13 million)

6. Portuguese — 258 Million

Portuguese is the sixth most spoken language in the world with 258 million native speakers. The vast majority of speakers reside in Brazil or Portugal, however, there are various other countries that treat Portuguese as an official language. Naturally, there are also dozens of dialects that vary by country and region. There are four primary dialects in Brazil alone, with dozens of local variations in different states and cities. Here are all of the countries in which Portuguese is an official language:

  • Brazil (209 million)
  • Angola (12 million)
  • Portugal (10 million)
  • Mozambique (8 million)
  • East Timor (500,000)
  • Cape Verde (500,000)
  • Guinea-Bissau (300,000)
  • Equatorial Guinea (200,000)
  • São Tomé and Príncipe (200,000)
  • Macau (6,000)

7. Bengali — 228 Million

The seventh most spoken language in the world is Bengali with about 228 million native speakers. More than half of all native Bengali speakers reside in Bangladesh, where 98% of the population speaks the language fluently. Most of the remaining native speakers reside in India, particularly the states of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam. Since Bengali is more concentrated in a particular area of the world, there are fewer distinct dialects. In fact, there are just five major dialects, though the exact figures on how many people speak each dialect are unclear:

  • Rarhi
  • Bôngali
  • Kamrupi
  • Bôrendri
  • Jharkhandi

8. Russian — 153 Million

The eighth most spoken language in the world is Russian with approximately 153 million native speakers. As one can imagine, many of these speakers live in Russia. However, Russian only has a population of 144 million, and not everyone who lives in Russia is a native speaker. Fortunately, it’s easy to see where Russian is commonly spoken by looking at former members of the Soviet Union and nearby countries in the Baltic region. Naturally, accents and dialects vary greatly by country and region:

  • Belarus (6.6 million)
  • Ukraine (12.7 million)
  • Kazakhstan (6 million)
  • Kyrgyzstan (3.8 million)
  • Uzbekistan (1 million)
  • Latvia (700,000)
  • Estonia (380,000)
  • Moldova (380,000)
  • Turkmenistan (300,000)
  • Lithuania (218,000)
  • Azerbaijan (150,000)
  • Georgia (45,000)
  • Tajikistan (40,000)

9. Japanese — 128 Million

Japanese is the ninth most spoken language in the world with more than 128 million native speakers. More than 99% of native Japanese speakers reside in Japan. There are two primary dialects in Japan, often simply designated as the Eastern and Western dialects. The former includes the dialect of Tokyo, while the latter includes Kyoto. Many linguists also count Kyūshū and Hachijō-jima as distinct dialects, though the majority of speakers fall into the Eastern and Western categories. 

10. Western Punjabi — 118 Million

Though many readers may not have heard of it, Western Punjabi is the tenth most spoken language in the world with 118 million native speakers. More than half of these speakers reside in the Punjab province of Pakistan, from which the language derives its name. The remaining native speakers are located throughout the surrounding region, particualrly in Afghanistan and Bangladesh. However, Western Punjabi also has a small but significant presence in Kenya, the United States, and the United Kingdom. 

Conclusion

There you have it! These are the 10 most spoken languages in the world! We hope you found this list insightful and informative. If you endeavor to learn any of these languages, you’ll open yourself up to millions of native speakers across the globe! But remember: English is still the most common language in the world among native and non-native speakers. So, if you want to make a lot of new friends, practicing English is a great way to start!

If you’d like to start improving your English now, be sure to subscribe to the Magoosh Youtube channel or join our Facebook Group!

Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones is a freelance writer with a B.A. in Film and Philosophy from the University of Georgia. It was during his time in school that he published his first written work. After serving as a casting director in the Atlanta film industry for two years, Matthew acquired TEFL certification and began teaching English abroad. In 2017, Matthew started writing for dozens of different brands across various industries. During this time, Matthew also built an online following through his film blog. If you’d like to learn more about Matthew, you can connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or his personal website!
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