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2021-01-28 00:01:15

What is the most popular language now?

What is the most popular language now?

Every year English is becoming more and more in demand - even children begin to learn it from an early age. Adults do not even have to leave the house for this purpose - now a huge number of resources offer classes online. After all, everyone has such a friend who “started” learning English, but never “finished”? Therefore, there are a lot of people who speak English to varying degrees.

Fun fact: Of the 1 billion people who speak English, only 33% consider it their native language.

Note that the popularity of a language depends on the daily necessities and geographic location of the country. The way it seems to us that the language is distributed around the planet, in fact, may differ from the real picture.

At the moment, there are about 100 languages in the world, recognized as the most popular among the inhabitants of the planet Earth. Each of them has its own history, origin and characteristics.


The place where all language data is collected

Special editions are engaged in statistics on languages, the leader among which is Ethnologue - the most famous and widest reference book on the world's languages. It is developed and published by SIL International in both print and electronic form.

Ethnologue's newest edition, 22nd in a row, covers a large proportion of the world's population. The information note contains a description of more than 7 thousand living languages that are relevant today. Imagine how much information the experts processed to compile such a guide!

To characterize languages, two aspects are taken into account:

  1. Linguistic : notes lexical and grammatical differences
  2. Social : oriented facts from culture and politics + takes into account linguistic heritage and identity.

To measure performance, the researchers applied the versatile set of ISO 693-3 criteria, which even includes related varieties and dialects. In terms of prevalence, Indo-European languages are in the lead - the language family has more than 3 billion speakers according to Ethnologue.

What languages are spoken the most in the world?

As you might expect, English is becoming the leader in this ranking with a total number of speakers of about 1% of the world population (more than 1.1 billion people). This is followed by Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, French.

This is what the top ten looks like:

  • English
  • Chinese 
  • Hindi
  • Spanish
  • French
  • Arab
  • Bengal
  • Russian
  • Portuguese
  • Indonesian.

Native speakers

Surprisingly, this is only one part of the language statistics. Other metric data show a different picture: Chinese is the native language for the largest number of people - about 918 million, which is almost twice as much as in the case of English. Apparently, this indicator is directly related to the large number of Chinese residents.

Popularity rating of languages by the number of native speakers:

  • Chinese (Mandarin) - 918 million
  • Spanish - 460 million
  • English - 379 million
  • Hindi - 341 million people
  • Bengali - 228 million
  • Portuguese - 221 million
  • Russian - 154 million people
  • Japanese - 128 million
  • Western Punjabi - 93 million people
  • Marathi - 83 million people.

In languages that we are not used to hearing - Filipino, Standard Arabic, Nigerian or Cameroon pidgin - there was no data on native speakers. You probably did not expect to see Spanish in second place, but there is a reason for this - it is widely used among residents of Latin America. The top five also includes Indian languages.

Bilingualism (L2)

We got acquainted with the most common "native" languages. These are the ones that people hear from childhood - from their parents and their environment. However, the modern world requires knowledge of a second language in addition to the main one, so people go to courses, or learn it on their own.

Fun fact: about 43% of the world's population is bilingual and can easily switch between two languages.

Given the data that we presented earlier, you can easily guess which language is most often chosen as the "second" - just calculate the difference between native speakers and the total number of speakers.

It turns out that more than half of official native speakers chose English as the second language - namely 66%.

By this logic, Swahili has the highest ratio of bilingual L2 to the total number of speakers: there are 16 million native speakers worldwide, and 98 million speakers of the language. At the same time, 82% of them know it as the second. Swahili is an additional national language for a number of African countries - Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, the Republic of the Congo. It is very likely that the movement of people from the countryside to larger cities is driving the adoption of Swahili as a second language.

Indonesian is a similar example. The total share of bilingual L2 people is 78% of the total - this variant of the Malay language has been used for communication on the islands for a long time.

But with the Chinese mandarin, the situation is the opposite - only 17% of people know it as an additional language. It is quite difficult to learn and pronounce, so we get this ratio.

Language traditions and their preservation

Language is a changeable phenomenon that is constantly changing and developing. Through the study of 100 languages used, we can see a unique picture through the prism of significant changes that have taken place in the world.

List of top ten languages with types of speakers and origins.

  • English: 1,132 million speakers, 379 million native speakers, Indo-European
  • Chinese (Mandarin): 1,117 million speakers, 918 million speakers, Sino-Tibetan origins
  • Hindi: 615 million speakers, 341 million native speakers, Indo-European
  • Spanish: 534 million speakers, 460 million native speakers, Indo-European
  • French: 280 million speakers, 77 million native speakers, Indo-European
  • Arabic: 274 million speakers, Afro-Asian origin
  • Bengali: 264 million speakers, 228 million native speakers, Indo-European
  • Russian: 258 million speakers, 154 million native speakers, Indo-European
  • Portuguese: 234 million speakers, 221 million native speakers, Indo-European
  • Indonesian: 199 million speakers, 43 million native speakers, Indo-European.

The reason for the popularity of these languages is that they are used actively and consistently. Unfortunately, about 40% of the world's languages (about 3 thousand) are endangered or are already dying. That is, too few people speak them, and knowledge about him is not passed on to anyone, so he gradually disappears from everyday life. This situation worries many researchers, since language is an important part of life. The loss of so many languages has a negative impact on the rights of indigenous people.

2019 has been declared the International Year of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations in hopes of dedicating it to the development of dying languages and their transmission to future generations. Only people themselves can preserve and preserve the national heritage.

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Egor Eremeev
Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Westminster University (Business & Management), London.
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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