The Top 12 Most Spoken Languages in The World

English ranks first among the world's Most Widely Spoken Languages, but Mandarin Chinese reigns supreme for native speakers. Bengali and Russian also made the list.

No matter your reason for learning a foreign language - be it work-related or leisure related - it is always interesting to see which are most widely spoken across the globe. As expected, English remains one of the world's most spoken languages; even though not a native tongue in many countries yet, English remains widely spoken around the globe.

While most people around the world speak English as their first language, learning other languages can open up whole new worlds of experience for individuals. From travel opportunities to professional relationships, knowing another language allows you to connect with a wide array of people and cultures around you.

An essential aspect of learning a new language is exposure, so make sure that you use television shows and movies that you find fascinating as a means of practicing! Music can also be useful.

No matter your language learning goal or personal curiosity, it can be exciting and eye-opening to look at global linguistic statistics. They give an in-depth picture of our society as it unites people from various regions worldwide - and can inspire you to try some beautiful languages yourself!

When considering the most spoken languages worldwide, their rankings vary greatly depending on whether we count total speakers or native speakers alone. As such, their position on our list can change considerably with our criteria; here, we compared those most spoken by native versus total speaker counts and considered both their mother tongue as well as any resulting varieties that have evolved out of it.

Moreover, Mandarin Chinese, English, Arabic, and Spanish all make appearances on this list - but there are a few surprises as well! Here's a glimpse at the top 12 most spoken languages worldwide:

1. English

English is one of the world's most widely spoken languages and a great option to learn, with native speakers spread out across several countries and cultures worldwide. 

While Mandarin Chinese may have more native speakers overall, English remains widely spoken all around the globe and therefore makes a great first choice when learning foreign languages.

English is one of the world's most spoken languages and holds more native speakers in America than any other. Globalization and new technologies have further expanded English's usage; an estimate in 2020 indicated over 1.2 billion fluencies with English as spoken worldwide.

Although English may not be an official language in every country, it remains widely taught as a foreign language and more people learn it than any other. English serves as the working language of many international institutions including United Nations agencies and large international corporations; due to this popularity of English its impact has caused other languages to decline or even die out entirely; English has even been accused of linguistic imperialism!

2. Arabic

Arabic is on the list of world languages most spoken today, originating in West Asia and North Africa and spreading throughout. Arabic serves as the mother tongue of over 150 million people around the globe and serves as the scriptural language for Islam; making it an integral cultural lingua franca.

Arabic, second only to English in native speaker numbers worldwide, is one of the oldest and most spoken languages worldwide. Arabic dates back millennia as part of the Central Semitic group of languages first used over 1000 years ago by nomadic tribes on the Arabian Peninsula before it later became a literary language for Muslim scholars and was adopted in different regions through Arab conquests.

But Arabic's number of speakers doesn't reveal all its diversity. Like Mandarin and Spanish, Arabic boasts multiple dialects despite being considered one language. Even within its dialects, there can be significant variance among spoken forms largely as a result of Islam's spread, which has altered or modified many regional tongues over time.

Over 362 million native Arabic speakers exist around the globe, yet this figure doesn't provide an accurate representation of the Arabic language itself. There are various dialects of Arabic with Egyptian being the most widely spoken. 

Other notable varieties include Maghrebi Arabic (used in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia Libya, and Western Sahara) and Peninsular Arabic (used by Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, Bahrain, and Southern Iraq).

At the turn of the 10th century, there was great fascination amongst linguists for Arabic as a language, prompting several dictionaries to be published focusing on specific aspects (such as pronunciation) of this ancient tongue.

3. Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese ranks at the top of the most widely spoken languages worldwide with close to 850 million speakers, being its primary dialect, and is used as the official first language in northern and southwestern mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. 

Mandarin also enjoys a large diaspora worldwide where schools teach it widely as part of Chinese studies programs; many borrowed words have also been integrated into this global language through compound word forms that incorporate borrowed vocabulary.

Chinese is spoken widely throughout China; it is most adapted to Mandarin by way of an ancient pictorial system called Han characters that represents each word pictorially. 

Hong Kong and Taiwan traditionally utilize different types of characters; both forms have become widely used due to government initiatives; educated speakers often possess over 8,000 characters! 

Mandarin derives its root language from a Germanic subfamily of Indo-European languages similar to English, but these two branches differ drastically in structure.

40 million Chinese are currently living overseas, mostly in Asia. Of this figure, over 30 million Indonesians speak Mandarin but it isn't an official language. Chinese populations also exist throughout North and South America - New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco all boast Chinatowns where large Chinese communities reside; others can be found in Honolulu, Vancouver, and Toronto as well.

Mandarin shares many features with Ancient Chinese; however, it differs significantly from Cantonese. Cantonese uses six tones and fewer initial consonants than Mandarin as well as having three shorter syllables with six regular length syllables versus six regular syllables in Mandarin's language structure. Furthermore, Cantonese tends to be less conservative. Still, it remains one of the most spoken languages worldwide after English. 

4. French

Though English remains the global dominant, French is quickly gaining in global usage; by 2050 French will boast over 750 million speakers! English, Mandarin Chinese, and Cantonese remain as three of the four world languages; but French's growth surpasses all three by far! 

French's wide use in business and entertainment accounts for about 29 percent of the world population speaking it; it ranks third most commonly among business languages used worldwide.

People often praise the beauty of French as an expressive, romantic, and artistic language, often described by its users as soothing, pleasing, and full of romanticism and artistic expression. 

French has become a romantic language with an amazing culture filled with art music and style - its unpronounceable "r" sounds and nasal vowel sounds combine beautifully with melodic intonation to add charm; trash words even sound beautiful spoken aloud in French!

According to some linguists, French is considered to be one of the world's most beautiful languages after Italian. That doesn't mean Italian doesn't deserve praise though: French remains popularly thought to be beautiful as well; some consider French the world's most stunning tongue; many people consider Italian to be beautiful too; however, French has its own distinct charms particular regions it hails from. 

Additionally, its beauty closely aligns with the country it comes from; for instance, French has long been associated with France which boasts some beautiful dialects while Italian or Spanish don't do; French stands apart as its unique character!

French is widely considered one of the world's most romantic languages, having evolved out of Latin over centuries. Its romanticism stems from its musicality due to its pronunciation; when speaking French, it's best to pronounce consonants only after vowels for seamless words flow and proper verb usage is essential in creating poetry or music that showcases its power.

French is widely spoken throughout Africa, such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo - once an exclusive Belgian colony - where over 28 million people currently speak it as their official language and as a common ground among various indigenous ethnic groups in this nation.

France was once an imperial power, yet by 2050 there will be over 650 million speakers of French. Therefore, learning French could be seen as an investment worth making; those working in France can learn quickly using an online French learning platform such as Mondly that offers a free language-learning platform for their benefit - making learning French easy while understanding what its meanings are - the language is widely spoken across European Union states making its importance vital to your career prospects and success.

5. Indonesian

If you speak Indonesian for some time, you will soon notice its marked differences from English. While English uses gendered terminology for males and females to distinguish them, Indonesian uses natural gender differentiation instead. For instance, "Father" in Indonesian means Mas, while "Sister" or Cici is Koko or Kucokoko.

Indonesians tend to speak both the national language, Indonesian, as well as several indigenous dialects such as Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese - with this latter group often taking precedence when communicating. 

Indonesian is widely spoken in both formal settings such as mass media as well as daily interactions among its people; however local dialects usually make their mark more often with vernacular Malay often dominating.

Formal and informal Indonesian can be distinguished through subtle variations in register and style. Formal is generally reserved for business transactions while informal can also be heard used within enterprises with expatriate staff and international transactions. 

Although Indonesian is one of the world's most commonly spoken languages, its usage remains minimal within villages and local markets where local languages reign supreme.

Indonesian is an immensely varied language with multiple dialects that show some similarity with Malaysian Malay; nonetheless, it stands apart in several important respects. 

Divided into two main domains--northern dialect and southern dialect--Javanese and Dutch influences are present, along with Melayu pasar's role as colonial colonists' lingua franca of Melayu pasar washed over to all Indonesia's islands when colonists colonized Indonesia during colonial rule; today more people speak Indonesian than native speakers do!

6. Spanish

Spanish may come as a shock, but when considered against its geography it becomes easy to understand why this is true. From South and Central America through Spain and large sections of the United States, it serves as the primary language. Furthermore, it's officially spoken by Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, and Mexico among many others.

Spanish is spoken by segments of Israel's and Northern Africa's population (both standard and Ladino Spanish), Turkey, Caribbean Island nations such as Bonaire, Curacao, and St Maarten as well as residents in Gibraltar as their first language (despite it not being official there). Some individuals even consider Portuguese their primary spoken tongue!

Oceania contains small communities of Argentineans, Chileans, and Uruguayans in Australia as well as rapidly expanding Colombian and Mexican communities in Sydney. Furthermore, Spanish can also be heard spoken in Ceuta and Melilla which are administered by Spain.

7. Portuguese

Portuguese may not get as much recognition in business circles as Spanish, German or Mandarin do; however, it's becoming an increasingly sought-after gateway language due to Brazil becoming the 8th largest economy and China bolstering economic ties with Portuguese-speaking nations.

As with Galician, its closest linguistic relative, Portuguese developed many Latinisms during its late Middle Ages Renaissance alongside Classical Greek and Occitan. Such Latinisms include aureo ("gold") and dourado ('golden") as well as localem (place) with porta-cabina (porthole), melena (hair lock), and fiambre ('wet-cured ham' in contrast with presunto "dry-cured ham").

Portuguese as spoken globally reflects its former colonial territories in Africa and South America. For instance, Brazilian Portuguese has developed separately from European varieties and differs in terms of vowel phonology.

Portuguese is one of the six most commonly spoken Romance languages worldwide and boasts millions of native speakers in both South America and Africa. Additionally, Portugal uses this Romance language extensively and many Lusophone nations use Portuguese too.

Portuguese is one of the world's most spoken-of languages in both hemispheres of its home continent - making its reach felt across immense regions like Australia or South Africa. Additionally, Portuguese ranks second most commonly among South American speakers.

Portuguese has been heavily influenced by many ancient and modern languages since its conception. During Renaissance periods, it adopted many erudite words from Classical Latin and Greek; later becoming the lingua franca for Asia and Africa has left its mark on Portuguese's vocabulary; Arabic influence can be seen in terms such as almofada (cushion), azeitona (olive oil) and garrafa (bottle).

Portuguese shares many features with French and Spanish; its seven sibilants have been decaffeinated into amino-alveolar fricatives. Furthermore, borrowings have come into Portuguese from other languages, particularly from indigenous peoples of the Iberian Peninsula; for instance abobora "pumpkin" and bezerro "year-old calf", from Celtic; saco "bag", from Phoenician; and cerveja ("beer") from Basque are examples.

Bengali (Bangla), is one of the two most spoken languages in Bangladesh and India with over 234 million native speakers and that number remaining unchanged since last year. Russian is the seventh-most-spoken language with an estimated total population of 154 million native speakers worldwide.

8. Urdu

Urdu (,) is an Indo-Aryan language widely spoken across South Asia. It serves as both the national and lingua franca of Pakistan where it shares official status with English; and as a recognized regional dialect within India itself. 

Furthermore, Urdu can be found as a widely spoken language in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, and Persian Gulf nations - becoming an invaluable literary language of South Asia as a result.

Urdu is a South Asian language widely spoken across parts of India and Pakistan. While closely related to Hindi, Urdu boasts its own distinct vocabulary and grammar structure that blends Persian, Arabic, and local words into its vocabulary.

Language development occurred under the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire (1226-1858 C.E). It became the preferred language among educated people in Hindustan, being heavily influenced by Islamic culture as well as Persian and Arabic borrowings as well as native Pakistani dialects.

Urdu evolved as a standard register of Hindustani during the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire, picking up Persian and Arabic influences along the way. Urdu is highly inflected with complex grammar features including split ergativity and noun forms for gender designation.

Urdu is written using an adaptation of the Nastaliq script, often with Latin alphabet spelling. This has caused some spelling differences compared to original Arabic and Persian texts, such as adding letters “ya” and “haa” for sounds [i] and [a]. 

Furthermore, some distinct Arabic and Persian sounds such as [q], have become combined or silent when written as Urdu text - many Hindi speakers may produce such fricatives correctly while it can be difficult for non-native speakers to comprehend them when mispronounced.

9. Bengali

As Chinese, English, and Spanish continue to remain among the top most spoken languages, other ones have made great leaps forward. Bengali (or Bangla as it's often known) has leapfrogged Modern Arabic into sixth place - it is spoken by more than 272 million people globally both as native and second languages.

The Bengali language takes its name from Bengal, which today forms parts of both India and Bangladesh. It belongs to an Indo-Aryan subfamily called Eastern Nagari branch and is closely related to Hindi; these two distantly related tongues share roots. Bengali serves as both Bangladesh and West Bengal's national languages; Rabindranath Tagore's Jana Gana Mana was written using Bengali.

Bengali stands out among Indo-European languages for several characteristics that set it apart, including an array of consonant clusters (such as "kssttt” "train"), the dropping of word-final o sound in verbs, and an extensive vocabulary derived from Pali and Sanskrit sources. Furthermore, Bengali is famous for its poetry and literature.

Bengali stands alone among the world's most widely spoken languages in terms of its unique ratio of syllables per syllable. This can be attributed to its extremely flexible alphabet which makes it possible to depict nearly all sounds graphically; when combined with its fluid syllable structure this gives Bengali its signature literary beauty.

Shadhu-bhasha (meaning upright language), the contemporary standard form of written Bengali was developed during the 18th century. This style employs longer verb inflections as well as Pali and Sanskrit-derived Tatsama words than are found in its counterpart in dialects.

The majority of the language derives from classical Sanskrit. It features six case forms and an intricate system of verb inflections; additionally, it contains words from several other languages including Hindi, Assamese, Oriya, and Chinese.

Additionally, poets, musicians, and filmmakers from Bengal have left their mark. People living here are incredibly hospitable - often greeting each other by greeting Namaskar (joining hands in front of the body) or Kamen aso ("How are you"). They make some of the world's best sweets!

10. Russian

Russian is one of the world's most commonly spoken languages and serves as the official language in Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Additionally, it's taught at schools in former allied states with the Soviet Union - like Poland, Bulgaria Slovakia Hungary, or even immigrant communities from former Soviet Republics in Europe or Central Asia. Russian speakers number around one million individuals within the US alone (more than those speaking German or Portuguese or Italian!).

Russian is written using the Cyrillic alphabet and has been heavily influenced by Latin, Greek, and English over its long history. Furthermore, its language can vary significantly depending on context in terms of spelling and vowels may change depending on position or emphasis in words.

Learning Russian may seem intimidating at first, but it is an invaluable asset when traveling through Eastern Europe and Central Asia, as well as business applications. According to the Defense Language Institute's language learning difficulty scale for native English speakers, Russian is considered level III of difficulty for learning purposes requiring at least 780 hours of immersion instruction before reaching intermediate proficiency.

Russian is one of the more widespread Slavic languages and is spoken as their native tongue in 16 countries worldwide. It shares close linguistic ties with Ukrainian, Belarusian, and other former Soviet Union languages.

Russian is an inherently complicated language with many similarities to other Slavic dialects; yet, it has also adopted words from many other countries such as France and German, making it an incredibly engaging one to learn.

11. Hausa

Hausa is one of the most spoken West African languages, comprising part of the Niger-Congo family and spoken by most in northern Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Mali; additionally, it serves the Muslim communities in Benin Burkina Faso and Togo as their native tongue.

The Hausa believe themselves to be descended from Bayajidda, an imaginary ancestor said to have left Baghdad in the 9th or 10th century AD and traveled across the Sahara before founding several city-states across it, including Kano. According to tradition, Bayajidda killed a serpent that was depriving people of water at Daura City-State, married its queen, and established several more city-states across it including Kano.

Furthermore, music and art play an integral role in daily Hausa life: work songs are commonly associated with agricultural tasks while praise singers provide entertainment in towns.

12. Korean

As one of the fastest-growing global languages through globalization and cultural export, Korean is now widely spoken around the world - yet many remain intimidated by its difficulty as a foreign language.

Complex in its morphophonemic system and flexible in word order, Korean boasts several parts of speech with no fixed subject-object-verb structure imposed.

Korea's distinct honorifics take years of learning, reflecting the social rank, age, and status of its speakers in society. Additionally, Korean has different verb endings depending on your level in society which stems from its class-based history.

Aliya Imtiaz

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