Top 10 Most Widely Spoken Languages In The World (2016 Update)

Are you like me and asking yourself the same god-damn question:

​,,Which language is the most spoken?‘‘

or better...

,,Does my native language even belong to the top 10?‘‘

Well today is your lucky day because I’ve put together the most up-to-date list of the most widely spoken languages in the world.

I am going to show you the most detailed ladder including:

  • Accurate numbers (based on first language speakers)
  • Objective chart
  • Well-arranged maps
  • And useful information you probably never read about!

10 Languages to Rule Us All

Before we start let me tell you something:

There are over 7.2 billion people speaking well over 7000 languages.

We all know that, right?

​But check this out:

​Did you know that only 10 languages of these 7000 are in total spoken by more than 3.6 billion people?

That's incredible, right?!

​Yeah, I thought so but now let’s get our hands minds dirty and reveal which languages are actually in the top 10!

So Are You Ready For One Of The Most Accurate and Up-to-date Sum Up?

Due to different measuring methods each country has, it is not easy to compile accurate data.

​In order to give you the most accurate ladder with the TOP 10 most spoken languages, I have gathered the following data from Ethnologue.com (2016), which is remarkable language encyclopedia published by SIL International.

10. Lahnda

First-language speakers: 117 000 000

I got to tell you something:

I didn’t know about this language till this research.

What a shame! I know!

But did you?

So let’s get down to it:

Lahnda, also known as Western Punjabi or Lahndi, is a language mainly used in and around the western regions of Punjab province in Pakistan.

In addition, Lahndi is considered as a macrolanguage and has several varieties such as Siraiki, Hindko, Inku, Khetrani, Pahari-Potwari and Majhi.

And the best part?

Most Spoken Languages: #10 - Lahnda

Region: Western Punjab Region

Language Family: Indo-European

Writing System: Perso-Arabic

With around 117 000 000 native speakers is Lahnda considered as the 10th most spoken language in the world!

,,Congratulations…’’

But just keep reading and I’ll reveal you the rest of the top languages.

9. Japanese

First-language speakers: 128 000 000

Let’s be honest now:

Have you ever mistaken Japanese for Korean or Chinese?

I bet you did!

Japanese is very different from Chinese, and it has no genetic relationship with it.

However, It still makes extensive use of Chinese characters in its writing system.

​Important to mention that large part of its vocabulary is actually derived from Chinese.

And along with kanji, the Japanese writing system primarily uses two scripts called Hiragana and Katakana.

Most Spoken Languages: #9 - Japanese

​Region: Japan

Language Family: Japonic

Writing System: Kanji and Kana​

After all, Japanese is the national language in Japan and is in fact the only country in the whole world where it is officially spoken.

Needless to say Japanese is popular among students and foreign people, so if you are thinking about learning it, maybe it’s the right time.

What’s stopping you?

Start taking Japanese lessons right now!

8. Russian

First-language speakers: 171 000 000

Ok, I know what you’re thinking:

Russia as the largest country must have the most language speakers, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not entirely true.

So let’s take a closer look:

Russian belongs to the branch of Indo-European languages and is part of East Slavic languages, which developed from Old East Slavic dialect.

The cool thing is it uses different writing system than most of European countries – Cyrillic, which you may know also as azbuka.

And that’s just the beginning.

Most Spoken Languages: #8 - Russian

​Region: Russia

​Language Family: Indo-European

Writing System: Cyrillic

​Russian is now spoken mainly in the Eastern Europe in countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Kazakhstan.

In fact, thanks to Soviet aggressive politics in the 20th century, for former countries of the Eastern Bloc was Russian the secondary language mainly taught on schools.

Believe it or not, this makes Russian the first most spoken language in Europe.

7. Bengali

First-language speakers: 189 000 000

Hope you are still with me.

​Have you ever heard about Bengali?

​Seriously, I am not kidding you.

It’s a dialect mainly spoken in Bangladesh and India.

​Moreover, you could run across Bengali in the United Kingdoms and the United States where extensive immigrant communities live.

​But here’s something really interesting:

Despite the fact Bengali is an Indo-European language; it has been influenced by other language families dominant in South Asia (Dravidian, Austroasiatic, and the Tibeto-Burman families).

Most Spoken Languages: #7 - Bengali

Region: Bengal

Language Family: Indo-European

Writing System: Bengali Alphabet​

These have significantly contributed to Bengali vocabulary and provided the structural forms.

So what does all this mean?

Bengali is one of the most spoken languages in Asia.

6. Portuguese

First-language speakers: 202 000 000

Let’s move on:

Portuguese is a proud member of the Ibero-Romance group.

Surprisingly enough, it emerged from various dialects of Vulgar Latin, which were brought to the Iberian Peninsula by Roman settlers, merchants and mainly soldiers around 216 BC.​

‘Língua portuguesa’ is an official language not only in Portugal but also in Brazil, Mozambique, Angola and many others.

​Why is this so?

As the result of colonization during the Age of Discovery, Portuguese has spread across many continents, for instance Africa, America and Asia.

Most Spoken Languages: #6 - Portuguese

Region: Portugal, Brasil, Mozambique, Angola

​Language Family: Indo-European

​Writing System: Latin

In addition, along with Spanish is Portuguese the most widely spoken language in the South America.

You can also see a significant presence of Portuguese culture in Malaysia and India.

Needless to say, it is also an official language of organizations such as European Union, Mercosul, OAS, ECOWAS and the African Union.

At this point you should realize how beneficial speaking Portuguese could be.

​Even Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes once called Portuguese "the sweet and gracious language"

5. Hindi

First-language speakers: 260 000 000

Now we’re getting to the most interesting part.

​Welcome to the top 5!

Hindi is an official language in India as well as English and other 20 languages.​

​In the beginning was Hindi along with Urdu derived from the Khariboli dialect, which you might know as Hindustan.

​Why do I say this?

Even though both languages have common ancestor, they are absolutely different.

​That’s just for illustration to show you how languages can vary in and around India.

Most Spoken Languages: #5 - Hindi

Region: North and North Western India

Language Family: Indo-European

Writing System:​ Devanagari

But that’s not all, in the 19th century was Hindi syntax in a limited way influenced by English.

And despite the fact that Hindi has official Government patronage and serves as a lingua franca over large parts of India, there is considerable opposition to the use of Hindi in the southern states of India.

4. Arabic

First-language speakers: 267 000 000

This is interesting:

​Did you know Arabic is written from right to left?

​I thought so.

​But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

​Let’s reveal more amusing facts:

Arabic belongs to the Semitic branch of the Afro-asiatic family, which also includes Amharic and Hebrew.​

,,Ok Adam, but that’s not all, right?’’

You bet!

There are two types of written Arabic:

Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic.

Most Spoken Languages: #4 - Arabic

Region: Countries of the Arab League

Language Family: Afro-Asiatic

Writing System: Arabic

On the one hand, the Modern is adapted form of Classical Arabic, and is used mainly in books, newspapers, on television and radio.

On the other hand, the Classical is the language of the Qur'an and classical literature. It differs from Modern Standard in style and vocabulary.

However, Arabic as a macrolanguage has many spoken dialects mainly spread across Western Asia, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.

In other words, each Arabic speaking country has its own variety of colloquial spoken Arabic.

3. English

First-language speakers: 339 000 000

Let me take a wild guess:

​You thought that English was #1, didn’t you?

​I guess you were wrong!

Yes, English is the most spoken language in the world but…

…counting only first-language speakers, it has ranked only on 3rd place.

Named after one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to England - the Angles, which was derived from the Anglia (or Angeln), peninsula in the Baltic Sea.

In fact:​

Most Spoken Languages: #3 - English

Region: Worldwide

Language Family: Indo-European

Writing System:​ Latin Script

English is a West Germanic language that was firstly spoken in early medieval England and is now a global lingua franca.

And today, It’s spoken in more than 101 countries and is an official language in 94 states.

2. Spanish

First-language speakers: 427 000 000

Few years ago was Spanish far behind English.

​And now?

​It’s #2… far behind Chinese. Heh.

But I am jumping ahead.​

Spanish is pretty much similar to Portuguese.

​They have plenty of things in common.

​Off the top of my head - history, pronunciation, vocabulary, language development.

To make it clear, Spanish as a Romance language originated in the Castile region of Spain.

Most Spoken Languages: #2 - Spanish

Region: Spain, Hispanic America, Equatorial Guinea

Language Family: Indo-European

Writing System: Latin

It belongs to the Ibero-Romance group of languages, which evolved from dialects of Vulgar Latin in Iberia.

Sounds familiar?

​And as I already mentioned before, in the early 16th century began the Age of Discovery.

​This resulted in expanding Spanish language and borders across America, Africa, Oceania and the Philippines.

1. Chinese

First-language speakers: 1 302 000 000

What a surprise! I bet you knew this.

​But wait a second!

I would love to stress that Chinese is macrolanguage that is divided into 13 individual dialects.

All of these dialects are as different from one another as Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian and Romanian).

The most common and probably popular is Mandarin followed by Wu, Yue, Jin.

Chinese is not only officially spoken in China but also in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Taiwan.

With this in mind, it's great opportunity for you to at least consider learning this compelling language.

Most Spoken Languages: #1 - Chinese

Region: China, Taiwan, Singapore

Language Family: Sino-Tibetan

Writing System:​ Simplified and Traditional Chinese

It’s pretty easy with a comprehensive action guide.

You’ll be able to speak with 1/6 of human population.


Now It’s Your Turn

I hope you enjoyed my sum up of the most spoken languages.

Thank you for reading and now feel free to share this ultimate top 10 with your own friends!

What have you got to lose?

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