The 10-most spoken languages
Before we begin: when we say the 10-most spoke languages, we mean those spoken by native speakers. And clearly there will often be variations. For example, the English spoken in the United States is different from that spoken in the United Kingdom or Australia. But they are all still English.
Now, with that out of the way, here are the ten-most spoken languages in the world and some information about the top five – only four of which are official languages of the United Nations
It is thought one-sixth of the people in the world speak Chinese. It is the official language of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore.
However, there is no single Chinese language. Chinese has many different dialects and the diversity is such that often speakers from different countries/regions don’t understand one another. So, as a general rule, when someone decides to learn or translate a text into Chinese, Mandarin is the most commonly used dialect.
While there are a number of variations of this language, Spanish – or Castilian to be more accurate – is a very standardised language, and it is easy for people from Spain, central and south America and some regions of the United States to understand each other.
A romance language, Spanish also includes some Arabic influences from the time of the Iberian Caliphate.
There are around 360 million native speakers of English around the world! English is also the second-most spoken language when we add non-native speakers, more than 1.35 billion people speak English!
English is now the language of travel and of business and is commonly taught as a second language in schools.
Given that most of the music we listen to and the films we watch are also in English, we have to recognise the huge impact English has had on our culture and entertainment choices.
A direct descendant of Sanskrit, Hindi is the language most commonly spoken in India, particularly in the northern, central and western regions. However, there are many variations. Hindi grammar was not standardised until the 1950s.
We must also recognise the very high illiteracy rate in India, which means standard Hindi (and English) are languages of the privileged, that is spoken at school and by official and governmental bodies.
The situation with Arabic is very similar to that of Chinese. While it is the official language of 20 countries (including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Lebanon), the variations are such that some speakers cannot understand the Arabic spoken outside their own country.
Arabic is also the sacred language of Islam. That means it is spoken, albeit non-fluently, by millions of the faithful around the world who pray and worship in this language.