First of all, what do you mean by speaking? Do you want to rank languages by their number of native speakers or by how many people speak them at all natively or non-natively? These two approaches produce very different-looking lists.
Secondly, where do you draw the boundary between a language and a dialect? How different do two “dialects” have to be before they’re considered separate words entirely? There’s often no clear answer, and the answer you give can significantly affect a language’s position in the “most-spoken” rankings.
When tallied according to several native speakers only, these are the most spoken languages in the world.
Here Are The Most Spoken Languages In The World 2020
10. Lahnda (Western Punjabi) — 118 Million Native Speakers
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. Punjab was sliced in two by the British when they left, and millions of people were forced to abandon their homes, businesses and families.
9. Japanese — 128 Million Native Speakers
Almost all of the 128 million native Japanese speakers who live in Japan are certainly the most highly geographically concentrated of all the languages. Japanese boasts two distinct writing systems, hiragana and katakana, and extensive use of Chinese Kanji characters. The largest groups of Japanese speakers living outside Japan can be found in the US, the Philippines and Brazil.
8. Russian — 153 Million Native Speakers
With roughly 153 million native speakers, Russian is the eighth most spoken language in the world. Famed for its inscrutable grammar and quite a lovely Cyrillic script, it remained one of the six languages spoken in the UN. It produced the literary likes of Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, Chekhov, Gogol, Tolstoy and Pushkin.
7. Portuguese — 220 Million Native Speakers
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 forever transformed the language. Today, Portuguese is spoken by 220 million native speakers in Brazil, Goa, Angola, and Mozambique.
6. Bengali — 228 Million Native Speakers
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.
5. Arabic — 315 Million Native Speakers
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 several languages, grouped as one for convenience. Modern Standard Arabic is a primarily written form closely related to the Classical Arabic of the Quran.
4. Hindi — 341 Million Native Speakers
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 Devanagari script, while Urdu uses Persian notation.
At the time of writing, the debate about its role in Indian education and society has once again flared up: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, is seeking to have Hindi displace English in the southern Indian states as the primary language of official communication and education, a strategy that has been met with resistance.
3. English — 379 Million Native Speakers
If you’re reading this article, you may be one of the 379 million-odd native English speakers or one of the 753 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.
2. Spanish — 460 Million Native Speakers
If we were only to look at native speakers, Spanish has its nose in front of English with about 460 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.
1. Chinese — 1.3 Billion Native Speakers
Numbers vary widely — Ethnologue puts the number of native speakers at 1.3 billion native speakers, roughly 917 million 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 speaks, this is the one for you.
Source: | Statista