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The 10 Most Common Languages

By Nicole at Accredited Language
Updated on Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Category: Languages



What 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.

Keep in mind that this list is composed of native speakers — so people who learned Mandarin in college, for example, are not included in the total number of Mandarin speakers.

You might find some languages that surprise you!

1. Mandarin

With more than 955 million speakers, Mandarin claims the top spot as the world’s most common language — and one that often requires professional translation services.

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.



76 Responses to “The 10 Most Common Languages”

  1. Ellie Collis Says:

    If English trails third in the world in popularity why is this article written in English?

  2. How I Increased My Search Traffic by 47% from Translating My Blog into 82 Languages - Michael J. Goldrich Says:

    […] What if I told you that you would get more traffic if you wrote your blog posts in Mandarin and Spanish as they are the two most popular languages in the world? […]

  3. deva Says:

    வாழ்க தமிழ்….

  4. Lou Says:

    YOU GUYS FORGOT FRENCH !!!!! FRENCH QUÉBÉCOIS LOL ON VOUS NIQUE

  5. yugrishi Says:

    I want to place to Hindi in no. One place

  6. kh@n Says:

    Pakistan population is 190000000..and India is 1270000000…so Urdu is No.1

  7. David Says:

    In reply to 1: Andalusian language does not exist, catalonian language is a COMPLETELLY different language, so that is an obvious mistake.

    In reply to 13: English is NOT (and outperformed by far!!) the most spoken language

  8. David Says:

    English is still amongst the universal languages spoken and taught worldwide. For example, this article is in English. English was not my first language, but because I’ve been living in the States most of my life, people tend to drop their original identity to assimilate in the country they have to express themselves to communicate with others. Olé, cojan un libro y aprendan algo nuevo. Je mange une pomme et bois du lait.
    It’s not impossible. You just need determination. 🙂 good luck.

  9. キムチ Says:

    ヘロヘロ、(^O^)オウ・エム・ジー・. アイ・ドント・ノウ・日本語・バット・アイ・スピク・ジェッスト・イングリシュ・アンッドスペイン語。For us linguists is fun.

  10. rameez Says:

    urdu <3

  11. Kamil Says:

    Bengali is a most beautiful language in the world……i love ❤ my mother tongue…. Long live Bengali

  12. Top 5 Tools for Spanish Keyword Research Says:

    […] I’m Jorge, a member of Wakefly’s digital marketing team, and a fluent Spanish speaker. As you all may know, the Spanish language is the 2nd most common after Mandarin with 405 million speakers. […]

  13. David Says:

    English speakers:
    UK – 64 million
    USA – 321 million
    Australia – 23 million
    New Zealand – 4.5 million

    So approximately 412 million English speakers (that’s not even counting English speakers in South Africa, etc…)

    Not sure where the figure of 360 million came from??

  14. Amy at Accredited Language Says:

    Hi David,

    I’m not sure where your figures come from, but keep in mind that our figures are based on native speakers, as researched and published by the 2010 edition of the Nationalencyklopedin.

    Thanks!

  15. Eve Rehn Says:

    Hi Ana (response #37), you might want to reconsider your sources. Hardly anyone would claim that Spanish is “one of the toughest languages” to learn/ master. In fact, out of the 9 languages I have studied (Romance, Germanic and Japanese),7 to a level of proficiency enabling me to use them professionally, I’d say Spanish is the easiest. David (63), you appear to assume that everybody living in the U.S. actually speaks English. Many millions can’t string a sentence together.

  16. mitch Says:

    i dont want to learn mandarin d0h! english is enough as our second language. this article sucks! why english is on 3rd spot, almost all people uses and written in english this should be the national language all over the world. some nation who dont know must learn basic english because this is very easy to understand. who wrote this blog can you please change it! ,whole crap!

  17. Things Travelers Should Stop Doing When Visiting Developingt Countries | themoxielab Says:

    […] can speak English. Before you get on your linguistic high-horse, though, know that it is only the third most spoken language in the world. There are more Mandarin and Spanish speakers globally. Furthermore, over 7,000 spoken  languages […]

  18. Things Travelers Should Stop Doing When Visiting Developing Countries | themoxielab Says:

    […] can speak English. Before you get on your linguistic high-horse, though, know that it is only the third most spoken language in the world. There are more Mandarin and Spanish speakers globally. Furthermore, over 7,000 spoken  languages […]

  19. Things Travelers Should Stop Doing When Visiting Developing Countries | The Moxie Lab Says:

    […] can speak English. Before you get on your linguistic high-horse, though, know that it is only the third most spoken language in the world. There are more Mandarin and Spanish speakers globally. Furthermore, over 7,000 spoken  languages […]

  20. The Mother Tongue, by Bill Bryson, Reviewed. | Stuart Aken Says:

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

  21. 5 GOOD REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD TRANSLATE YOUR WEBSITE INTO SPANISH – Blog in translation Says:

    […] Spanish, you will be able to cater to the over 400 million Spanish speakers in the world (link: https://www.alsintl.com/blog/most-common-languages/).  Behind the 955 million native Mandarin speakers, and just ahead of the 360 million native […]

  22. Give Your Goal a Bigger Purpose – Caroline Leach Says:

    […] is to be able to work globally. Spanish is the second-most-spoken language in the […]

  23. babbu brar Says:

    Punjabi is the language all the world sat sri akal g

  24. Five Ways to Introduce a Second Language to Your Toddler – Bringing Up the Parks Says:

    […] China is the opportunity to learn Mandarin, the most widely spoken language in the world according to this site. My husband can speak it quite well, and I can speak it just enough to order and buy basic things. […]

  25. The 5 Best Places to Learn Mandarin in China - Sublime China Says:

    […] is China’s official language and with nearly a billion speakers, it is the world’s most spoken language. If this is not enough incentive to learn the language, here is another important reason: learning […]

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