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The 10 Most Common Languages

By Nicole at Accredited Language
Updated on Thursday, September 25, 2014
Category: Languages



most common languagesWhat are the world’s most common languages?

Estimating these most common language populations can be tricky, and there is a range of data available.

Quiz yourself: See how many of these most common languages you can name before looking at the list.

You might find some languages that surprise you!

1. Mandarin

With over 955 million speakers, Mandarin claims the top spot as the world’s most common language. One of the five major dialects of Chinese, Mandarin is the official language of China and Taiwan, as well as one of the four official dialects of Singapore. Approximately 14.4 percent of the world’s population are native speakers of Mandarin.

2. Spanish

Its prominence in the Americas as well as in Europe makes Spanish one of the most common languages, with 405 million speakers. The Castilian dialect in Spain is held as a national standard, although Andalusian and Catalan are also spoken.

3. English

English used to be the second-most common language, but Spanish-speakers have increased much more rapidly over the past 15 years. Still, scholars have named English the world’s “most influential language,” due to the number of speakers (360 million) and the number of countries in which it is spoken.

4. Hindi/Urdu

Although they have different written forms, Hindi and Urdu share a history, many common words, and a grammar. Many linguists consider them different “registers” of the same common language. Over 310 million people speak one of the two.

5. Arabic

Arabic, spoken by 295 million speakers worldwide, is also the language of Muslim holy writings. It has also influenced other most common languages — Spanish has approximately 4,000 words with Arabic roots.

6. Portuguese

Out of the 215 million Portuguese speakers worldwide, nearly 150 million of them speak Brazilian Portuguese, the most common language variant. Portuguese is also the official language of other countries including Angola, Mozambique, and — clearly — Portugal, among others.

7. Bengali

With 205 million speakers, Bengali is also the second most widely spoken language in India, popular in the easternmost states. Bengali is an official language of both India and Bangladesh.

8. Russian

Russian’s 155 million speakers make it the world’s eighth most common language. It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations, along with Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), English, French and Spanish.

9. Japanese

Out of the approximately 125 million people who speak Japanese, 124 million live in Japan and the island group of Okinawa. This makes it unusual among the most common languages in its geographic concentration.

10. Punjabi

Fifteen years ago, German held the tenth spot, though Punjabi has recently surpassed it. With 102 million speakers, Punjabi is mainly spoken in India and Pakistan, and is a native language of 1.44 percent of the world’s population.

How do we know who speaks what?

Fluctuations in different estimates can be attributed to population growth, as well as how linguists choose to group dialects and microlanguages into larger groups.  The most common languages can also vary depending on whether studies include only primary languages, or all languages spoken in a population.

These numbers were taken from the 2010 edition of Nationalencyklopedin, a Swedish language encyclopedia. The top 100 languages can be found here.



22 Responses to “The 10 Most Common Languages”

  1. coevica Says:

    “The Castilian dialect in Spain is held as a national standard, although Andalusian and Catalan are also spoken.”
    How much is real?

  2. Xiocus Says:

    Andalusian doesn’t exist, at least as a language… It is rather a dialect or derivation of spanish. Many other communities has different ways to call things but, that doesn’t make it to be a language. i.e. Fula. In the Canary Island is a fish or brown skin person when in Cuba is the nick name for the dollar.

    Catalan in the other hand it is a language… Other speaking language to consider in Spain are: Euskera and Galego, there is one more that I can’t remember.

  3. Cyjoshy Says:

    Bahasa Indonesia should be in the number 8th position as it is widely spoken by approx 165 mil people in a country with populations of 237 million people.

  4. Lailani Says:

    Native english speakers Like myself will have an easier time learning German or Danish or dutch because the ties of our Languages dialect roots. It would be Harder for americans to learn korean or japanese because we no dialect roots.

  5. PedroMir Says:

    The spanish language is spoken by 400 million people.

  6. Santiago Says:

    Spanish prominent in Europe? Italian with 13% of the speakers is much more spoken in the European Union, than Spanish with only 9% of the speakers.

  7. Steven Says:

    English is the most widely spoken language. Considering the population of China and amount of Mandarin speakers, allot of those people probably also speak english compared to the amount of english speakers (including other foreign speakers) that would speak Mandarin. I assume this post is heavily focusing on the population amount of common native speakers and not the frequency of its use by individuals.

  8. As Says:

    well this list is inaccurate. it derives from census which records primary languages and not secondary. even wiki records 360 milions primary and 900-1500 millions secondary speakers for english language.

    this list should be renamed 10 most common native(or first language) languages.

  9. Gjg Says:

    Go english.

  10. Gjg Says:

    I like English.

  11. Alberto Says:

    Im from Andalucía. We do not have our own language, we speak castellano in andalucia. Stupidest thing I’ve ever seen

  12. Amy at Accredited Language Says:

    Hi Alberto,

    You’re right; Castilian Spanish is spoken in Andalucia. However, there is a distinct variant on the language within Andalucia, and therefore some regard this dialect to be its own language: http://www.guia-andalucia.com/en/language/

    Thanks for commenting!

  13. Emmie_Says_Hi Says:

    English is the most spoken language, then Spanish, and then I don’t know from there. Anyways,

    GO ENGLISH AND JAPANESE :DDD

  14. Tu amo. Says:

    Aprendan español, mediocres. Gringos asquerosos que creen que su idioma es el mejor y el más hablado.

  15. David Jenkins Says:

    How about Bahasa Indonesian spoken by 240 million Indonesians and 20 million Malaysians and 5 million Singaporeans.

  16. Barnett Says:

    Not a count on how many people speak a language. According to this only the United States speaks english with a population of 360 million. So does Canada, Great Britain, West Africa, South Africa and most of Europe. It may not be their national language, but they still know it as a language as does 4 billion people in the World. The same with Spanish. A poor list at best. This is not a list of languages spoken by population, Is is a list of official languages by a nations national language, not how many people speak a language.

  17. Tom Says:

    I can’t find “southern” on this list. That’s all we speak around here … unless we’re making fun of someone speaking something else!

  18. Obama's Immigration Reform and Why You Can't Ignore Spanish - New Language New Soul Says:

    […] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_number_of_native_speakers http://www.alsintl.com/blog/most-common-languages/ http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2014/03/language-study « Learn a […]

  19. Test Your Smartphone English Skills! (exercise included!) » Alexandra Traduction Says:

    […] In addition, since the internet was originally created in English and first became widespread in the United States, it has become the most common language on the internet (internetworldstats.com).  This is very interesting, because despite being known as the most common business and internet language,  English is only the 3rd most common language spoken in the world, after Mandarin and Spanish! (alsintl.com) […]

  20. Beatrice Hendon Says:

    This is so informative. Thanks for posting this.

  21. FAO Emily @ Emilyspoems + 2 updates | thinkanddiscern Says:

    […] http://www.alsintl.com/blog/most-common-languages/ […]

  22. Torii Says:

    Okinawa is an island from the Japanese island group called the Ryukyu islands, which is what I believe the article was trying to refer to.

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