Top 10 World Languages

Wikipedia defines a world language as ” a language that is spoken internationally and is learned and spoken by a large number of people as a second language” and “… is characterized not only by the total number of speakers (native and second language speakers), but also by its geographical distribution, as well as use in international organizations and diplomatic relations”.

Not surprisingly, the major world languages originated in Western Europe and became so due to the colonial expansion “practiced” by the countries of western Europe for centuries.

According to Ethnologue, currently, there are over 7,000 known living languages.

English: the favorite child?

English is considered the official international business language.  It is one of the most widely spoken languages and continues to spread at a very fast rate.  English is the second language taught in many non-native-speaking (i.e. English is not their first tongue) countries.   English is also considered the dominant language of scientific research and many other industry sectors worldwide.

What are the most spoken languages?

There are numerous ways to measure the world’s most popular languages, depending on the criteria.  To further complicate the question, some languages have major variants (e.g. Chinese language variants). However, if we go based on the estimated number of native speakers in the world, this list below is widely viewed (in 2016) as the top 10 world languages.  Estimating the total number of native speakers is part science and part guesswork, but I will say that the top 3 (in order) are generally accepted to be Mandarin, Spanish and English.

The Top 10 (listed with no ranking order):

  • Mandarin (Chinese)
  • Spanish
  • English
  • Hindu/Urdu
  • Arabic
  • Portuguese
  • Bengali
  • Russian
  • Japanese
  • Punjabi

Here are 3 notable exceptions that fall outside the top 10, but are well-known in international circles.  (Listed with approximate number of native speakers in parentheses).

  • German [95 million]
  • French [80 million]
  • Italian [65 million]

Want to learn more?  The Ethnologue website is a very fascinating site with lots of great information on this topic and many more.


Foreign Translations is a professional translation services company serving clients nationwide since 1998. The company specializes in language solutions in the fields of document translation, localization services, desktop publishing (DTP), OPI and much more! Using advanced software and top-notch human linguistic experts around the world, FT enables their clients to reach target audiences in the language(s) and channels deemed necessary for their success.
Contact FT today.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s