Translation and Language Industry Observations

These are the five most common languages spoken globally. Although it is impossible to know the exact number of speakers, thanks to constant secondary foreign language studies and the ongoing growth of varying cultures, this is a very solid estimate based on population statistics. A great number of other languages also have large speaking populations, with Malay, Russian, Bengali, Portuguese, and French rounding out the top ten.

World's 5 Top Languages


Although most people are familiar with only a few languages, there are actually 6,500 languages used throughout the world. Of these, around 2,000 languages have less than a thousand native speakers. But what about the rest of them? Among the 4,500 languages around the globe that have more than a thousand native speakers, which are the most widely used?

The answer can be found in one of two ways. The totals can either be found by the number of native speakers alone, or by the total number of people who speak it at a proficient level. For the purposes of this article, the most common global languages will be chosen by total number of speakers and not just native speakers alone.

1. Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is the most common Asian dialect, and is not to be confused with Cantonese, which is a variation of Chinese that is similar but not considered the same. Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China, Taiwan, and Singapore. There are approximately 1.1 billion speakers globally, with around 897 million of them calling Mandarin Chinese their native tongue. The demand for Chinese translation services is growing rapidly as a result.

2. English

Although English is only the second most commonly spoken language globally, it is the most common language used for international business, and has even been called the “international language.” An incredible 54 countries have designated English as their first language. Just a few of them include the United Kingdom, Ireland, Jamaica, Australia, New Zealand, and several African countries. Globally, there are 983 million English speakers, with only 371 million of them calling the language their native tongue.

3. Hindustani

The word “Hindustani” isn’t actually a language itself, but a collective name for both Hindu and Urdu. These are two distinct but similar dialects of the same language, with the primary difference between the two being their writing systems. There are a total of 544 million native Hindustani speakers in the world today, with 329 million of them calling it their mother tongue. The language is prominently spoken through north and central India, and is the official government language of India.

4. Spanish

Spanish is spoken widely throughout the world, especially in countries located throughout South American and Central America. It is also spoken in the Caribbean, one country in Africa (Equatorial Guinea), and in a few areas in the southeastern portion of Asia. Mexico is the largest Spanish speaking country in the world, but is surprisingly followed by the United States (home to over 40 million native speakers). Worldwide, there are 436 native Spanish speakers, which create a large portion of the total 544 million people who speak the language capably.

5. Arabic

Arabic is the official language of 26 countries, mostly found throughout the Arabian peninsula, northern Africa, and the Middle East. Among the 26 countries where Arabic is an official language are Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Morocco, Jordan, Palestine, and the United Arab Emirates. Of the 422 million Arabic speakers globally, 290 million of them are native speakers.

About the Author

Chelsea Falin is a dedicated professional with 10+ years experience working as a freelance writer, and 5+ years as a freelance marketer. Studied at ASU for Bachelors in English with minor in Media Analysis, and obtained certification in inbound and content marketing via HubSpot Academy. Experience in multiple forms of digital content.

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