Determining the most spoken languages in the world is harder than one might think. Whether it’s calculated by number of native speakers or by total amount of speakers or where those languages are spoken, there is a varying amount of answers. However, the top 5 most spoken languages in the world remain the same. Our team of professional translation services and interpreting services have provided a breakdown of each language and the impact they have on us.
Which are the most spoken languages in the world?
The top five are:
Spoken Chinese has five main dialects, Mandarin being the most commonly spoken. Yue, Min, Wu, and Hakka are the other main spoken dialects, which cover over 200 other dialects. Chinese is spoken in over thirty-five countries with almost 1.2 billion native speakers in the world.
While written Chinese is based on pictograms, the tonal language is one of the hardest to master. Written Chinese comes in two ways: simplified and traditional. Typically speaking, Simplified Chinese is the language of choice for mainland China. Meanwhile, Hong Kong and Taiwan use traditional Chinese.
If we were to solely count those who speak Spanish as a first language, native Spanish speakers would surpass native English speakers with over 400 million speakers. The beauty of Spanish is that it is spoken in various countries around the world, covering at least half of the continents including South and Central America, Spain, and a large majority of the United States. However, if you were to ask a Catalan or Castilian or Quechua if Spanish is their language, you may get varying answers.
In Spain, four different languages are commonly spoken throughout the country with each language being an official language according to its location:
- Spanish (Castilian)
- Basque (Euskarian)
Of course, there are many variations in the dialect of Spanish spoken in Spain versus the Spanish spoken in Latin America or Mexico. One of the most common and well-known grammatical differences is the use of the pronouns ustedes vs. vosotros. Latin America does not use vosotros (you, plural, informal), preferring the formal ustedes. Vocabulary also tends to vary. While the word for computer is ordenador in Spain, in Latin America it is computadora.
Whether you are one of the over 375 million people who speak English as a first language, or one of the 1.5 billion people who speak English as a second language, the English language is universal. As it is spoken around the world, the success of the English language is recognized as the language used for business, along with international relations, travel, and pleasure. This also means that the language has picked up different types of dialects, depending on where it is spoken.
From the US to the UK to Canada, English has slightly different dialects all around the world. Here are a few common examples of popular divergences between US English, Canada English and UK English:
- Sweater (American) <>Jumper (British English)
- Dinner (American) <>Tea (Global English)
- Cell Phone (American) <>Mobile phone (English)
- Fries (American) <>Chips (English)
- Lollipop (American) <>Sucker (Canadian)
- Water fountains (American) <> Bubblers (Canadian)
India has twenty-three official languages with thirteen different scripts and 720 dialects with Hindi being spoken mainly in northern India and parts of Pakistan. Nearly 425 million people speak Hindi as a first language and an estimated 120 million as a second language. Hindi is also spoken in some countries outside India, such as in Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago and Nepal. Both Hindi and English are two of the official languages of India. However, about only 30% of the population in India speak English. Hindi uses Devanagari script and Sanskrit words.
Arabic has about 250 native speakers around the world. While Modern Standard Arabic is a primarily written form closely related to the Classical Arabic of the Quran, Spoken Arabic (Colloquial Arabic) has various dialects and differs from Modern Standard Arabic in several ways:
- Its grammatical structure is much simpler.
- Letters are pronounced differently, and pronunciation also differs between dialects.
- The vocabulary and style are more casual.
Spoken Arabic has a number of dialects, ranging from Tunisian Arabic to Iraqi Arabic to Yemeni Arabic. Though each region has its own spoken dialect, people are still able to understand each other fairly well. Within the main dialect groups, there are regional sub-dialects. If you were to choose to learn Arabic, you may be better off learning Modern Standard Arabic.
The world is a multilingual place, and we all need to communicate across the borders and cultures. While the most spoken languages covered in this article are among the most common, more than 6,000 languages are spoken globally. Whether you choose to learn a new language on your own, or with the a help of interpreters and translators, Bromberg & Associates has experience and solutions to help you bridge any linguistic and cultural divide.
We offer language training for groups and individuals at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. We also offer language training activities for specific skills such as oral communication, reading and writing, pronunciation and accent modification. All of our courses are tailored to fit you or your organizations’ language needs. Be sure to contact us for your language needs including language training and translation services.