Throughout the world, there are 6,909 languages that are spoken on a regular basis. Only around 400 of these languages, however, are spoken by more than 1 million people each. As the world becomes more of a global community, people have the opportunity and the need to learn different languages.
As time progresses, the number of people who speak specific languages will continue to increase. The following is a list of the 10 languages most commonly used around the world, as well as the number of countries where they are regularly used, and the estimated number of people who use the language as their primary means of communication.
- Chinese/Mandarin- 1,284 speakers with 13 dialects across 37 countries.
- Spanish- 437 million speakers across 31 countries.
- English- 372 million speakers across 106 countries.
- Arabic- 295 million speakers with 19 dialects across 57 countries.
- Hindi- 260 million speakers across 5 countries.
- Bengali- 242 million speakers across 4 countries.
- Portuguese- 219 million speakers across 13 countries.
- Russian- 154 million speakers across 19 countries.
- Japanese- 128 million speakers across 2 countries.
- Lahnda- 119 speakers across 6 countries.
The Chinese languages
It is easy to understand why the Chinese languages are the most commonly spoken around the world when you consider that China is home to over 1 billion people. These languages include at least 15 dialects, and the most dominant is Mandarin which is spoken by 70 percent of the country. After Mandarin, the most popular dialects are Wu/Shanghainese (80 million speakers) Yue/Cantonese (73 million), and Min Nan/Taiwanese (48 million).
The prominence of Spanish speakers
Spanish is the second most common language spoken around the world, which is an interesting fact considering that it is not used much in Asia, most European countries, or the majority of African countries. The Spanish language made its way to various parts of the world through colonization, particularly between the 15th and 18th centuries. When the country of Spain claimed most of South America, Central America, and significant portions of North America, it infused these areas with their language. The Philippines was also a Spanish colony, which explains why Spanish is a dominant language there.
Spanish is also a language with many dialects, which sound different depending on the country they are being used in. Other factors such as pronunciation and regional accents may also be a slight barrier to communication, but not so much that they prevent general understanding.
English around the world
The presence of the English language around the world also has a great deal to do with colonization. The British Colonial Empire colonized Australia, North America, Pakistan, India, and parts of Africa between the 15th and 20th centuries. English is still present in these parts of the world because of these colonial conquests. Regarding more recent history, the United States led the world in technological and medical advancement after World War II, and many students around the world who were interested in these fields were encouraged to learn English. As a way to prepare students for the world economy, many families opted to have their children learn English as a second language. Also, because English is spoken in so many countries, it is a good language to know when traveling internationally.
Language and social networking
Platforms like Twitter and Wikipedia, along with book translations, have led to the creation of a Global Language Network. It is important to keep in mind, however, that these types of networks are easier to access by those who have the resources to do so. While English is the most dominant language in the Global Language Network, French, Spanish, and German are also commonly found. Because of how widely Arabic, Hindi, and Chinese are spoken around the world, it is just a matter of time before they are also dominant in all types of media.