1. English (1 132 million speakers)

  • Native speakers: 379 million
  • Non-native speakers: 753 million

English is considered the universal language of today. 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 (Internet World Stats, 2019). In addition, you can access 60% of everything published on the web

2. Mandarin (1 117 million speakers)


  • Native speakers: 918 million
  • Non-native speakers: 199 million

Adding native and non-native speakers, Mandarin is the second most widely spoken language in the world. However, it is the first, if only native speakers are taken into account.

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.

Interestingly, 20% of people who connect to the internet speak Chinese, but only just over 1% of the content available on the web is in the Chinese language.

3. Hindi (615 million speakers)

  • Native speakers: 341 million
  • Non-native speakers: 274 million

Hindi is, along with English, one of the 22 official languages of India, the second most inhabited country in the world. The region’s linguistic diversity (more than 1,600 languages coexist) explains the high rate of non-native speakers who use it as a lingua franca.

4. Spanish (534 million speakers)


  • Native speakers: 460 million
  • Non-native speakers: 74 million

In terms of the number of native speakers, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language worldwide. In addition, it is the third most used on the internet. Its enormous colonial expansion took it not only to America, but also to Africa and Asia. Due to migration, the United States is the country with the second highest number of people with Spanish skills in the world.

5. French (280 million speakers)

  • Native speakers: 77 million
  • Non-native speakers: 203 million

Colonialism allowed French to spread throughout the world. Today it is the official language of 29 countries on different continents.

If English is the language of business, 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. Arabic (274 million speakers)


  • Native speakers: 245 million
  • Non-native speakers: 29 million

Arabic is the official language of 26 countries. Due to this territorial coverage, it is actually a set of dialects. It is also the liturgical language of Islam.

It is not only the language that treasures the enormous cultural legacy of the Arab world, but also a necessary tool for the field of business in that region of the world.

7. Bengali (265 million speakers)

  • Native speakers: 228 million
  • Non-native speakers: 37 million

Bengali is the official language of Bangladesh. In addition, people speak it in some areas of India and Burma. It may come as a surprise that a language spoken in such a small territory 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)

  • Native speakers: 154 million
  • Non-native speakers: 104 million

Less surprising is the inclusion of Russian among the most widely spoken languages globally if we think about Russian history and territories. It is the official language of four countries, but people also speak it in all those part of the former Soviet Union. It is the language with the largest number of native speakers in all of Europe.

9. Portuguese (234 million speakers)


  • Native speakers: 221 million
  • Non-native speakers: 13 million

Portuguese is another of the languages that expanded in the European colonial period. Today it’s the official language of nine countries divided between Europe, America, Africa and Asia. Brazil is the largest country out of those nine and has the most amount of Portuguese speakers. In addition, it is the most widely spoken language in the southern hemisphere.

10. Urdu (231 million speakers)

  • Native 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)

  • Native speakers: 43.6 million
  • Non-native speakers: 199 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)

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

Unlike other European languages that are spoken in countries around the globe, German is mostly spoken in Europe: In Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Luxembourg. With that said, learning German is incredibly popular relative to the small population of these countries, 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)

  • 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)

  • 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?

Inspired to open your world with language skills and culture? Discover all the languages Berlitz has to offer here.