When it comes to ranking languages of the world, there
are two main ways to compute the list. One method is
to rank by mother tongue: how many people consider the
language to be their mother tongue.
The second method is to rank by official language. We
have scanned the various sources, cross-referenced
them, tried to understand the discrepancies, and
computed the following list of the ten most widely
spoken languages on planet Earth.
French (Number 10)
Over 130 million inhabitants of this planet speak
French. Mainly, they can be found in France, but
French’s reach extends to Africa, North America as
well as in parts of Asia and South America. Up to the
French Revolution, France’s imperialistic nature led
to the expansion of "la langue Francise" and its
presence is worldwide to this day.
Malay-Indonesian (Number 9)
Malaysia and Indonesia share lots in common, one of
the main attributes being the language. There are many
dialects, but the most popular is Indonesian.
Malay/Indonesian is spoken by over 170 million people,
and that’s a whole lotta people.
Portuguese (Number 8)
After winning its independence from Spain in the 12th
century, Portugal’s influence expanded rapidly thanks
to famous explorers like Vasco de Gama. Because of
their work, the Portuguese speaking contingency
reaches 175 million — the bulk of Portuguese speakers
hail from Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, France,
Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, S? Tom? Pr?cipe, and
Portugal, of course.
Bengali (Number 7)
India’s other language, Bengali is also spoken in
Bangladesh and Singapore. In fact, Bangladesh is a
country of over 120 million, most of whom speak
Bengali. Combined, there are over 210 million Bengali
speaking people worldwide.
Arabic (Number 6)
The official language in roughly 25 nations, over 260
million people speak Arabic, from Iraq to Morocco.
Both Farsi and Urdu use the Arabic script but differ
from Arabic — Arabic being a Semitic language whereas
Farsi and Urdu are Indo-European ones.
Russian (Number 5)
Russia’s vast geographic reach and populous nation
makes it sit at number 5 with 275 million speakers.
But given the low life expectancy among men there and
Arabic’s accelerated growth, Russia looks like it will
slip in ranking over the next decade.
Spanish (Number 4)
With anywhere from 350 to 400 million speakers, many
lists have Spanish surpassing English, and by most
standards, that is right. The official language in
just over 20 nations including Andorra, Belize,
Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain,
U.S., and Venezuela, Spanish weighs in at numero
English (Number 3)
The "lowest common denominator," if one were to exist,
English is the universal language with 500 million
speakers worldwide. The language is officially spoken
in over 50 countries, a record. Examples include:
Australia, Brunei, Cameroon, Canada, Fiji, New
Zealand, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, U.K.,
and U.S., not to mention many Caribbean states.
Hindi/Urdu (Number 2)
Ironically, Hindi and Urdu are essentially the same
language. In Pakistan, Hindi is modified and written
in Arabic script, whereas in India, it is written in
the Devanagari script and called Hindi. Combined, 600
million human beings speak Hindi. While every expert
would assert that India’s population will surpass
China’s, chances are that there will always be more
Mandarin-speaking people because English is widely
spoken in India, but not in China.
Mandarin Chinese (Number 1)
Mandarin is spoken by over 1 billion people; making it
the most widely spoken language on Earth. Besides
China, Mandarin is spoken in Brunei, Cambodia,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore,
South Africa, Taiwan, and Thailand. Mandarin is fairly
sophisticated because it can be spoken in four tones.
But once you begin, you’ll have a billion people to
It is interesting to note that both German and
Japanese are spoken by over 100 million