At Cactus, language is our passion. With over 7,000 different dialects spoken around the world, we thought it would be interesting to look at the most popular languages on Earth. This list offers a brilliant starting point for those looking to learn a new language with Cactus.
This selection of the top 10 most popular languages gives an amazing insight into the spread of language throughout the world. Whilst a number of entries will be expected, a few may be surprising.
So whether you are looking to discover a new language to learn, or are just interested in language facts, here is a list of the top 10 most popular languages in the world.
English – 1,132 million speakers
Not surprisingly, English is the most popular language in the world with over 1,130 million speakers. With countries such as USA, Canada and the Australia having English as their native, first language it is understandable.
This Indo-European language also holds the record for the most amount of words in its dictionary. The English dictionary holds over 171 000 words, many dating back centuries.
Mandarin – 1,117 million speakers
Closely following English in the rankings is Mandarin. Being the native language of China, Taiwan and Singapore, Mandarin is one of most popular languages. Yet this is only in a concentrated area compared to many others.
Compared to the 26 letters in English, Mandarin has approximately 50,000 characters. However, 98% of everyday Chinese Mandarin words can be read with a knowledge of only 2,500.
Mandarin has become one of the most popular languages to learn in recent years, particularly amongst young people.
Hindi – 615 million speakers
With over half a billion native speakers around the world, Hindi is the third most popular language on Earth. The official language of India, Hindi is also spoken in countries such as Nepal, Fiji and Mauritius.
Interestingly, English has borrowed many words from Hindi such as ‘jungle’, ‘karma’, ‘bungalow’ and many more. However, for native English speakers it can be a tricky language to learn, but a very rewarding one.
Spanish – 534 million speakers
Spanish is the official language of 18 American countries as well as Spain itself. This dates back to the Spanish explorers visiting the continent in the 15th and 16th centuries. Learning Spanish is essential for trips to Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Argentina to name a few.
This popular dialect uses inverted question and exclamation marks to highlight the exclamation or question part of a sentence. This differs to other languages such as English, which simply use the symbol at the end of the sentence.
French – 280 million speakers
French is spoken on every continent throughout the world and has had an impact on many other dialects around the world. 45% of modern English, for example, has French origin. This dates to the Norman invasion in 1066 where French became the language of the aristocracy and administration. This resulted in French becoming incorporated in day-to-day English and has remained ever since.
As well as a number of European countries, French is a predominate language in a large number of African nations and certain Canadian states. This expanse of French speakers worldwide dates back to the colonial period.
Arabic – 274 million speakers
26 countries around the world have Arabic as their official language. Starting in the Arabic peninsula, the use of Arabic has spread to North Africa and Western Asia as the Muslim faith expanded.
Interestingly, Arabic uses no capital letters, instead the alphabet used quotation marks for emphasis. The language also uses sounds which are not found in other languages. This can make learning the language slightly trickier for those learning it.
Bengali – 265 million speakers
Bengali is the official language of Bangladesh and a number of Indian states, and its origins can be traced back to the 10th century.
One of the benefits of learning Bengali is that it is a gender-free language! Nouns are not assigned to gender which means minimal changes to adjectives. This is a major boon to those learning the language!
It is also the main reason why we celebrate International Mother Language Day on the 21st of February. This dates back to 1952 when thousands of students protested and sacrificed their lives to retain Bengali as the national language of East Pakistan.
Russian – 258 million speakers
As well as having millions of native and non-native speakers around the world, Russian is also a language of space! All astronauts must have basic Russian language training and the computer system on the International Space Station (ISS) operates in both English and Russian!
Portuguese – 199 million speakers
Surprisingly only 5% of Portuguese speakers live in Portugal! Portuguese is the official language of 9 countries including Brazil and Mozambique, so it’s not that shocking when you look at it in that respect.
There is a few differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese, in some ways similar to British English and American English. The most prominent difference is the use of the second-person pronoun. In Portugal the use of tu and vós are commonplace, how ever in Brazil você and vocês are preferred.
Indonesian – 170 million speakers
Considered to be one of the easiest Asian languages to learn for native English speakers, Indonesian is spoken across the majority of southern Asia. Using the Latin alphabet, it is easier to recognise than other Asian languages.
Interestingly, even with a huge number of speakers worldwide, Indonesian is the official language of only one country! Surprisingly enough it is Indonesia.
There are of course other speakers of the language around the world with a cluster in the Netherlands. This dates back to 17th Century when the Dutch attempted to colonise and unsuccessfully convert the Indonesian natives to speaking Dutch.
Here’s how to learn more about the most popular languages with Cactus:
Have you read about the Most Popular Languages in the World and want to learn a language or improve your language skills? Cactus offers a variety of great group language courses. Including online and in the UK, across the world and private classes. Learning a language has never been easier, and is a great way to uncover a different culture.
Are you looking to book a language course?
Please check our How to Book page for more information on the simple secure and easy online booking process.
Cactus language offers the following types of language courses:
Online language courses: online classes for over 20 different languages
Evening language courses: evening language classes for over 20 languages across the UK, including London
Language holidays: worldwide immersion courses in the country of the language
Junior language camps: immersion programmes for children and teens across the world
Private tuition: tailor-made and corporate language training solutions throughout the world