Students interested in learning Mandarin often ask whether Mandarin or English the most spoken language in the world? Inchin Closer gives you the statistics behind these queries to lay this debate to rest. English is the most spoken language if you count both native and non-native speakers around the world. However, if you count only native speakers, Mandarin Chinese is the worlds most spoken language because of the sheer size of the Chinese population (see graph below). English is spoken in 146 countries, a stark difference to Mandarin which is spoken in 38 countries.
So it you are looking to learn a new language, and would like to speak the world’s most spoken language read below. Being able to communicate in a foreign language, makes travel easier, opens up new doors of business and trade and helps you know a new culture better. Languages are extremely powerful in influencing people, getting a great deal or in trying to get an international job. Choose the foreign language based not only on the most number of people speaking it, but also on your use case. For example, if you see a future of doing business with China learn Mandarin. However, if you would like to visit a South American country, learn Spanish.
French and German used to be the languages to learn for most job aspirants 20 years ago, but as the axis of trade and business has shifted East, learning Mandarin now makes more sense. Hindi is the national language of India and if you are doing business with rural India, it is a must language to know, although many parts of Southern and Eastern India speak different languages.
Chinese language here is an amalgamation of all the dialects that are spoken within China considered as a whole. They are considered one as all of China’s dialects although spoken slightly differently, all share the same script.
English 1.5bn people
is the largest spoken language in the world because of its worldwide spread within the British colonies. Hollywood, American culture and now more recently technology, have made the language mainstream and popular for young aspirants to learn. Most of what is published on the internet, including this article are in English. If you speak English and Spanish, you can speak with more than 1/3rd the world’s online population. Being a truly global language, it’s also the region of the sky – all pilots must identify themselves in English!
Mandarin Chinese 1.1bn people
is spoken in a more concentrated part of the world but owning to China’s large population which was only recently overtaken by India, Mandarin Chinese remains the largest spoken language by native speakers. Mandarin Chinese is also now spoken in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and other neighbouring nations that heavily trade with China. It’s also on the the United Nations 6 official languages. Whats fascinating is that although only 1%of the content on the internet is in Chinese, 20% of the people online speak Chinese.
Hindi 602.2mn people
The Indian national language, Hindi is spoken mostly in Northern and Central India, Nepal, Fiji, Mauritius and Guyana. Originated from Sanskrit, Hindi, has loaned English several words including Pyjama, bungalow, karma and yoga.
Spanish 548.3mn people
While Europe has many languages spoken within the continent, Spanish is one of the most influential languages in the region. The language also gained widespread cognisance due to Spain’s colonial past where the language spread to most parts of Central and South America. While the languages might differ slightly the further you go from the homeland, like Mandarin Chinese the group of languages is all considered Spanish as it’s written in the same way. Thats why Spanish is the second most spoken language in terms of native speakers – after Mandarin. Spanish is also the third most used language on the internet.
French 274.1mn people
is spoken in parts of Switzerland, Canada, many nations in Africa and smaller islands like Haiti. In fact it is the official language of 29 countries in the world. Again the spread of French is due to her colonial past which helped France spread her language and culture as far as Pondicherry in India! This makes French the third most spoken language amongst native and non-native speakers.
Standard Arabic 274mn people
is the official language of 26 countries, most of them in the Arabic world. If you are doing business or need to understand the Islamic world better, Arabic is an integral language to learn.
Bengali 272.7mn people
rules number 7 on the list of most spoken languages due to the large population in the regions that its spoken – mostly Bangladesh and parts of Eastern India. Did you also know that the Bengali script is the first most widely used script in the world?
Russian 258.2mn people
is the language with the largest number of native speakers in all of Europe. Given Russia’s geographic size and history, its rather surprising that it’s not higher up on the list, however other nations are more populous than Russia. Russian is also one of the most grammatically trickiest languages to learn but has one of the fewest words – only 200,000 while English has about 1 million words!
The most widely spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere, mostly due to the large numbers of Portuguese speakers in Brazil. However due to colonial rule, Portuguese is also spoken in parts of Africa, Asia and Europe.
A lyrical language, mostly spoken in Pakistan, Urdu is very similar to Hindi and Arabic and exists on this list sheerly based on the large population of people that speak it within a small geographic area.