20 Most Spoken Languages in the World in 2024 | Berlitz (2024)

1. English (1,452 million speakers)

  • First language: 372.9 million
  • Total speakers: 1.4+ billion

According to Ethnologue, English is the most-spoken language in the world including native and non-native speakers.

Like Latin or Greek at the time, English has become the world's common language. It is the default language in international business, tourism, technology, and much more.

A bilingual person who speaks Spanish and English can understand 1 in 3 people who connect to the Internet. They can also access over 60% of everything published on the web.

2. Mandarin (1,118 million speakers)

20 Most Spoken Languages in the World in 2024 | Berlitz (1)

  • First language speakers: 929 million
  • Total speakers: 1.1+ billion

Looking at total speakers, Mandarin is the second most widely spoken language in the world. However, it's the most spoken language in the world if you count only first-language (native) speakers due to China's significant population.

Mandarin is not actually a language, but a set of dialects of the Chinese language. What unifies these dialects under the same name is that their speakers can understand each other.

3. Hindi (602+ million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 343.9 million
  • Total speakers: 602+ million

Hindi is, along with English, one of the 22 official languages of India, the second most inhabited country in the world. India’s incredible linguistic diversity (more than 121 languages coexist) explains the high rate of non-native speakers who use it as a lingua franca. In addition to India, Hindi is spoken by over a quarter of the population of Nepal!

4. Spanish (548+ million speakers)

20 Most Spoken Languages in the World in 2024 | Berlitz (2)

  • First language speakers: 474.7 million
  • Total speakers: 548+ million

Spanish is the second most widely spoken language globally in terms of native speakers. In addition, it is the most spoken of the Romance languages and the third most used on the internet.

Spain’s enormous colonial expansion took this language not only to the Americas but also to Africa and Asia. Today, there are 21 Spanish-speaking countries in the world, with dozens more that have a significant Spanish-speaking population. Interestingly, the United States is the second country with the largest number of Spanish speakers in the world!

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5. French (280 million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 79.9 million
  • Total speakers: 274+ million

Like Spanish and English, French spread throughout the world along with the French colonial empire. Today, there are 29 French-speaking countries all around the world!

If English is the language of business, then French is considered the language of culture. Its enormous importance is also reflected in the fact that it is the third language with the largest number of non-native speakers.

6. Modern Standard Arabic (274 million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 0 million
  • Total speakers: 274 million

Did you know that Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the only language on this list without native speakers? Indeed, Arabic is a large language with many different dialects, and all Arabic speakers grow up speaking a local dialect, like Egyptian Arabic, Levantine Arabic, Mesopotamian Arabic or another local variety.

So, how does MSA have so many non-native speakers? That’s because MSA is commonly used in newspapers, TV broadcasts, and movies, but people don’t speak it with each other. It’s an academic language that you’ll find in literature in politics, but not in everyday life. As such, if you’re interested in learning Arabic, you’re better off starting with one dialect and then learning MSA to widen your horizons.

7. Bengali (272+ million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 233.7 million
  • Total speakers: 272.7 million

Bengali is the official language of Bangladesh and is also spoken in some areas of India and Burma. It may come as a surprise that a language spoken in such a small region appears in a list of the most spoken languages in the world. However, it makes sense when you think about the population density of that region.

8. Russian (258+ million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 154 million
  • Total speakers: 258.2 million

Less surprising is the inclusion of Russian among the most widely spoken languages globally considering that Russia is the largest country in the world by territory. Plus, while Russian is the official language of only four countries, it’s widely spoken in 19 countries. Did you know that it’s also the language with the highest number of native speakers in all of Europe?

9. Portuguese (257+ million speakers)

20 Most Spoken Languages in the World in 2024 | Berlitz (3)

  • First language speakers: 232.4 million
  • Total speakers: 257.7 million

Portuguese is another language that expanded worldwide during the European colonial period. Today, Portuguese is the official language of nine countries in Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia. Brazil is the largest country out of those nine and has the most Portuguese speakers. Brazil’s large population makes Portuguese the most widely spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere!

10. Urdu (231.3 million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 70.2 million
  • Total speakers: 231.3 million

Urdu is one of the two official languages in Pakistan and is also widely used in certain regions of India. The spoken part of Urdu is widely intelligible with Hindi, as both speakers can understand each other without much issue. However, Urdu uses a modified Persian script for its alphabet, while Hindi uses Sanskrit.

11. Indonesian (199 million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 43.6 million
  • Total speakers: 199.0 million

Bahasa Indonesian is the official language of Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world. Peculiarly, it’s not the native language of most of its speakers. Rather, it’s a second language necessary for mutual understanding in a country with more than 200 languages.

12. German (134.6 million speakers)

20 Most Spoken Languages in the World in 2024 | Berlitz (4)

  • First language speakers: 75.6 million
  • Total speakers: 134.6 million

German is, of course, the official language of Germany. Unlike its other European counterparts, it’s mostly spoken in Europe, with only Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Luxembourg having sizeable German-speaking populations. With that said, learning German is incredibly popular relative to its small population, ranking as the fifth most studied language in the world.

13. Japanese (125.4 million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 125.3 million
  • Total speakers: 125.4 million

Japanese is the first language on this list that is entirely spoken within one country. In fact, over 99% of Japanese people speak Japanese as their native language! With that said, learning Japanese is extremely popular among people who want to enjoy Japanese culture and do business with the third-largest economy in the world.

14. Nigerian Pidgin (120.7 million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 4.7 million
  • Total speakers: 120.7 million

Nigeria is one of the fastest-growing countries in terms of population. Indeed, it is estimated that the West African country will be the fourth-largest country in the world in terms of population by 2050 — just a hair behind the U.S. We can expect the Nigerian Pidgin to climb on this list in the coming decades following Nigeria’s population boom.

15. Marathi (99.1 million speakers)

20 Most Spoken Languages in the World in 2024 | Berlitz (5)

  • First language speakers: 83.1 million
  • Total speakers: 99.1 million

Marathi is the third most common language in India, with most of its speakers concentrated in the state of Maharashtra. This language has existed in its current form for about 1,300 years, making it one of the oldest languages in the world!

16. Telugu (95.7 million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 82.7 million
  • Total speakers: 95.7 million

Telugu is the fourth most common language in India, right behind Marathi. Telugu is predominantly spoken in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, although it’s also the official language of several other states. It is a part of the Dravidian language family, which has been around for about 5,000 years.

17. Turkish (88.1 million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 82.2 million
  • Total speakers: 88.1 million

Turkish is the official language of — you guessed it — Turkey. What you may not know is that Turkish used to be written in a modified version of the Arabic alphabet until 1928, when it was replaced by the Roman alphabet. There are sizeable Turkish-speaking populations in Cyprus, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece and other European states.

18. Tamil (86.4 million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 78.4 million
  • Total speakers: 86.4 million

Tamil is the fifth most common language in India, with a sizeable presence in the state of Tamil Nadu. It’s also commonly spoken in Sri Lanka and Singapore by Tamil people. Tamil is considered the oldest living language in the world, with a history spanning more than 5,000 years!

19. Yue Chinese (85.6 million speakers)

20 Most Spoken Languages in the World in 2024 | Berlitz (6)

  • First language speakers: 85.2 million
  • Total speakers: 85.6 million

Yueh Chinese is a group of closely-related Chinese dialects. The most popular of these dialects is Cantonese, which is spoken predominantly in the Guangdong province of mainland China as well as in Hong Kong and Macau. Cantonese is also popular among overseas communities, making it one of the most common dialects of Chinese outside of China.

20. Vietnamese (85.3 million speakers)

  • First language speakers: 84.6 million
  • Total speakers: 85.3 million

The Vietnamese language has six tones and is, of course predominantly spoken in Vietnam. However, did you know that it is also recognized as an official language in the Czech Republic, and can therefore be used in courts and official radio and television broadcasts?

There you have it! That’s the list of the 20 most spoken languages in the world. Are you inspired to open your world with language skills and culture? Discover all the languages Berlitz has to offer here.

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20 Most Spoken Languages in the World in 2024 | Berlitz (2024)

FAQs

20 Most Spoken Languages in the World in 2024 | Berlitz? ›

According to the Engco Forecasting Model explained above, the 5 most spoken languages in 2050 will be Mandarin, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic. The key drivers behind the continued rise in popularity of these languages include population growth, economic predictions and national language policy.

What are the top 5 world languages in 2050? ›

According to the Engco Forecasting Model explained above, the 5 most spoken languages in 2050 will be Mandarin, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic. The key drivers behind the continued rise in popularity of these languages include population growth, economic predictions and national language policy.

What will be the most common languages in 2030? ›

As we have mentioned the importance of English and Mandarin, it is clear that these languages will be leading in 2030. A Chinese speaker has a different value among speakers of other lingoes. A dependent variable shows the effect of both tongues.

What is the #1 used language in the world? ›

The 12 Most Spoken Languages on Earth

That's why it's not very surprising to find English as the world's most spoken language, with 1.5 billion speakers as of 2023. In second place is Mandarin, the most spoken Chinese language dialect with 1.1 billion speakers.

Which language is best for 2024? ›

Best languages to learn in 2024
  • English.
  • Korean.
  • Mandarin Chinese.
  • 4. Japanese.
  • Portuguese.
  • French.
  • Indonesian.
  • Spanish.
Feb 1, 2024

What is the top 10 most spoken language in the world? ›

Ethnologue (2024)
LanguageNative speakers (in millions)Language family
Mandarin Chinese941Sino-Tibetan
Spanish486Indo-European
English380Indo-European
Hindi345Indo-European
25 more rows

What is the 20 hardest language in the world? ›

  1. Mandarin. Mandarin Chinese stands out as one of the most daunting languages for English speakers to learn, primarily due to its tonal nature and the extensive use of characters. ...
  2. Arabic. ...
  3. Japanese. ...
  4. Korean. ...
  5. Russian. ...
  6. Cantonese. ...
  7. Hungarian. ...
  8. Finnish.
May 7, 2024

What language will dominate in the future? ›

Did you know that Mandarin Chinese is not just a language spoken by billions but is also soaring high on its way to being the most widely used language by 2050? This fact alone could steer your decision-making process towards what language to dive into next.

Is English growing or shrinking? ›

If we look at increases in speaker numbers, English is the fastest growing language. This is true whether we look over the past decade, the past 50 years or even the past 100 years.

Which language is booming now? ›

According to various surveys and reports, the top programming languages in demand for 2032 are Python, Java, JavaScript, C++, and C#. Python is in high demand due to its versatility and use in data science and machine learning.

What is the most taught language in the world? ›

10 Most Studied Languages
  • English - 1.5 Billion Learners. ...
  • French - 82 Million Learners. ...
  • Mandarin (Chinese) - 30 Million Learners. ...
  • Spanish - 14.5 Million Learners. ...
  • German - 14.5 Million Learners. ...
  • Italian - 8 Million Learners. ...
  • Japanese - 3.8 Million Learners. ...
  • Arabic - 4 Million Learners.
Jan 5, 2024

What is the most universal language right now? ›

The most spoken languages worldwide in 2023 (by speakers in millions)
CharacteristicSpeakers in millions
English1,456
Chinese (Mandarin)1,138
Hindi609.5
Spanish559.1
6 more rows
Mar 22, 2024

What country has only 1 official language? ›

Officially recognized languages are often mistaken for official languages. According to the online reference Wikipedia, half the countries of the world have official languages. Some have only one official language, such as Albania, France, Germany and Lithuania.

What is the #1 universal language? ›

English remains the dominant language of international business and global communication through the influence of global media and the former British Empire that had established the use of English in regions around the world such as North America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

What was the 1st language on earth? ›

As far as the world knew, Sanskrit stood as the first spoken language because it dated as back as 5000 BC. New information indicates that although Sanskrit is among the oldest spoken languages, Tamil dates back further. Tamil dates as far back as 350 BC—works like the 'Tholkappiyam,' an ancient poem, stand as evidence.

What are the top 3 languages in the world? ›

Conclusion. In summary, the most popular languages in the world—be it by the number of native speakers, geographical reach, or global influence—are Chinese, English, and Spanish. While these languages dominate the global stage, the importance of other languages like Arabic, Hindi, and Russian cannot be overlooked.

How many languages are there 2024? ›

From Afrikaans to Zulu, Italian to Japanese, there are currently 7,164 known languages spoken by people around the world, according to Ethnologue, widely considered to be the most extensive catalogue of the languages of the world. Sadly, this number declines every month.

Which language is most popular in future? ›

By 2050, Mandarin Chinese will still be the language with the biggest number of native speakers in the world, but China's ageing population and the decrease in birth rates will restrict its predicted growth to only 27%, a low percentage compared to the expected boom for Spanish and English, in second and third ...

What will be the most spoken languages in the world? ›

Mandarin Chinese boasts the highest number of native speakers, while English serves as a global medium of communication. The title "king of all languages" remains a matter of perspective, influenced by factors such as native speakers, cultural impact, and international influence.

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