Five in Five, Geography

The World’s Five Most Spoken Languages

The World’s Five Most Spoken Languages

Did you know there are currently some 7,000 languages spoken across the world? Papua New Guinea, the country with most languages, is estimated to have more than 800 native tongues. However, due to ever-increasing globalisation the number of languages globally, is steadily falling. According to the National Geographic Society, an existing language ceases to be actively spoken about every two weeks. Many experts believe this trend could accelerate, leaving only 4,500 languages by 2050, and less than 3,000 by 2100.

The most recent sociological data would seem to support the notion towards ever-increasing language homogeneity. For instance, since 1900, the world population has grown from less than 2 billion to more than 8 billion. However, there are now some 570 fewer languages than there were at the turn of the 20th century. Moreover, today, more than half of the world’s population speak just 23 languages. Do you know which languages are the most commonly spoken? Here’s a brief overview of the globe’s most often vocalised languages:


Photo credit: Africa Studio/

English is currently the world’s most spoken language. While there are an estimated 373 million native speakers, worldwide, there are some 1,080 million speakers for whom English is a second language. Thus, the world estimate of English speakers is 1,453 million, who hail from some 146 different countries. Globally, English is acknowledged as the language of business and the primary language of the Internet.


While Mandarin is the second commonest language globally, it is the tongue most widely spoken as a first language. The language itself is made up of a series of regional dialects but speakers can generally understand each other. There are a current 929 million first-language speakers of Mandarin, with a total of 1,118 million speakers worldwide.


Hindi is one of the 22 official languages of India but inhabitants speak a total of some 120 different tongues. First language speakers of Hindi are currently estimated at 344 million from a total population count of some 1.43 billion. However, lingua franca users and the 7.5 million speakers in Nepal, boost the number of Hindi speakers to more than 602 million. The number makes it the world’s third most spoken language.


Globally, there are an estimated 475 million people who speak Spanish as a first language. After Mandarin, it is the world’s most-spoken language by native speakers. There are 21 Spanish-speaking countries in the world, the majority of which are in Central and South America. However, at least a further 23 other countries have significant sectors of the population that speak Spanish. With Spanish speakers totalling around 549 million globally, it’s the world’s fourth most spoken language.


With an estimated 409 million French speakers worldwide, it is the globe’s fifth most spoken language. It is the first language of some 80 million people, the majority obviously being the inhabitants of France. However, there are another 29 countries worldwide that have sizable populations of French speakers. Many of these countries are the former French colonies of Africa. French is also one of the most widely taught foreign languages around the world.


Header image credit: Maxx-studio/

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