The 10 Most Spoken First Languages in the World – 2023 Updated Edition

January 10, 2023
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

There are over 7000 languages spoken in the world with different sounds and history. Some languages are most spoken than others depending on the the statistical variable you choose to focus on; like the number native speakers or the number of people that speak that language as a second language.

Here at TranslateDay we determined the position of the most spoken languages in the world by carefully examining Ethnologue: Languages of the World (2023, 26th edition) and a bunch of other statistical studies.

It is very important to note that the main variable taken into consideration for this report is the number of native speakers, or first language speakers. This factor is heavily influenced by factors like demographic transition, and may provide useful and valuable insight on geographical distribution, cultural diversity or economy of a region but it may not be so useful for other metrics. For more information, please refer to Conclusions at the end of this article.

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Top 10 Most Spoken First Languages in 2023

The 10 Most Spoken First Languages in the World – 2023 Updated Edition

Currently, these are the 10 most spoken languages in the world in 2023, sorted by number of mother language speakers: Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, Yue chinese, Vietnamese.

Information on such is an approximation. The exact number of speakers is difficult to measure as in most cases; these may vary rapidly due to many factors. So, keeping all of this in mind, let’s look at the ranking for The Top 10 Most Spoken First Languages in the World by the year 2023:


10. Vietnamese – 85 Million Native Speakers

The tenth language in our ranking is Vietnamese. This language is spoken by approximately 85 million speakers mainly in Vietnam, where it is considered national and official language. Vietnamese has also been officially recognized as a minority language in the Czech Republic.

You might also find interesting: 6 Languages About to be Extinct.

Vietnamese has a very phonemic tone with a significant influence from Chinese and French, which include the use of tones to distinguish words with identical consonant and vowel sequences. Words order usually express syntactic relations of words to each other, while using modifiers rather than affixes can express the tense and voice of verb forms.

In our last revision, Vietnamese had 85 Million native Speakers, so the number of Vietnamese native speakers has remained the same compared to last year’s Ethnologue 2022 edition.


9. Yue Chinese – 86 Million Native Speakers

Yue Chinese, often refered to as Cantonese is a group of langauges spoken in Southern China, particularly in the region of Liangguang, which include both the Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. According to our sources, Yue Chinese (including Cantonese) is spoken by around 86 Million native speakers. Although Yue varieties share a lot of vocabulary with Mandarin, both languages are completely different in pronunciation, consonants and tone. Sentence structure, like verbs placement, may sometimes differ between the two dialects.

One curious fact is that Cantonese is forbidden in schoolwork and government documents since it is seen as informal and contains features unique to Cantonese. Instead, Standard Chinese, developed upon Mandarin is used instead.

In our last revision, Yue Chinesese had 85 Million native Speakers, which makes it a +1 million increment in Yue Chinese native speakers since last year’s Ethnologue 2022 edition.


8. Japanese – 123 Million Native Speakers

Japanese language follows Punjabi at ninth position, but with a higher number of speakers. This language is considered an isolated one because it is only spoken in one country: Japan with about 123 million speakers.

It is a language which has thousands of onomatopoeia which are sounds being represented by words. These words have been useful for the Japanese comics and also for manga.

In our last revision, Japanese had 130 Million native Speakers, which makes it a -7 million decrease in Japanese native speakers since last year’s Ethnologue 2022 edition.


7. Russian – 147 Million Native Speakers

Russian follows Japanese on the list of the most spoken languages in the world. This is the largest of all the Slavic languages and is the official language of four countries. As a result of this, approximately 147 million people speak Russian as a first language.

It is spoken mostly in many countries which were a part of the former Soviet Union. Russian is claimed by people in 16 countries as their native language. 

In our last revision, Russian had 154 Million native Speakers, which makes it a -7 million decrease in Russian speakers since last year’s Ethnologue 2022 edition.


6. Bengali – 234 Million Native Speakers

Bengali, often referred to as Bangla follows Portuguese as a language among the most spoken ones in the world. Although it is only spoken as a native language in a few different countries, mostly in Bangladesh and India, this language has around 234 million speakers, which leaves it very close to Portuguese. These two countries sing their national anthem in this language. 

Note: In previous editions of the Ethnologue, Standard Arabic was considered to be the 5th most spoken language in the world, with around 270 million native speakers. However after 2022 edition, it is no longer considered a L1 Language, or native language. According to our sources, some languages, such as Chinese and Arabic, are sometimes considered language families and are sometimes considered single languages. Entries identified by Ethnologue as macrolanguages (such as Arabic, Persian, Malay, Pashto, and Chinese, encompassing all their respective varieties) are not included in this section as they cover several mutually unintelligible varieties.

You know Arabic is considered to be one of the 7 Most Difficult Languages to learn in the World?

In our last revision, Bengali had 234 Million native Speakers, so the number of Bengali native speakers has remained the same compared to Ethnologue 2022 edition.


5. Portuguese – 236 Million Native Speakers

Number six of this most spoken languages ranking is Portuguese. Portuguese is spoken by approximately 236 million people around the world, with a high number being in Africa and South America. Last year, in 2022 edition, Portuguese was 6th in this ranking, but due to the growth of population who speak Portuguese as first language in the world it has overcome Bengali in this ranking in 2023.

Here you can check the exact number of Portuguese speakers at real-time

A curious fact is that its alphabet has increased to 26 from 23 due to the New Orthographic Agreement of 1990 . Portuguese is related to modern Spanish and developed from Latin. It is the Official Language in 9 countries.

According to the Ethnologue, last year edition Portuguese had 232 million native speakers, which leaves a +4 million Portuguese native speakers increment since last year’s Ethnologue 2022 edition.


4. Hindi – 345 Million Native Speakers

The fourth most spoken language is Hindi. Hindi is only spoken as a first language in seven countries, the main ones are Nepal and India. It is important to notice that this number of first language speakers does not include Urdu. The success of this language is because of the sheer number of people living in the countries. Hindi language counts with around 345 million speakers

In our last revision, Hindi had 345 Million native Speakers, so the number of Hindi native speakers has remained the same compared to last year’s Ethnologue 2022 edition.


3. English – 380 Million Native Speakers

English language is the third most spoken language in the world. It has approximately 380 million native speakers who are spread out in the different continents. Last year (2022) english had around 373 million native speakers, which leaves it with an increment of +7 million native speakers since last year edition.

Do you know How Many Dialects does English have?

English is the official first language in over one hundred countries. It is ranked as one of the most influential languages in the world. It is also the most popular first “second language” chosen by different people globally.

English is a Germanic language because of its structure of sentences and vocabularies. This language has however been influenced by a variety of languages. 

In our last revision, English had 373 million native speakers last year, which leaves a +7 million increase in English native speakers since last year’s Ethnologue 2022 edition


2. Spanish – 485 Million Native Speakers

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. It is spoken in 31 countries which are mostly around the Latin America and in Spain. This language has about 485 million native speakers in addition to the nonnative speakers.

Did you know one of the most translated books in the world was written originally in Spanish? 

Spanish originated in Spain at the Castile region. Spanish is regarded as an easy language to learn, mainly because of its phonetic nature. Often, its pronunciation is also “the way it reads”.

In our last revision, Spanish had 475 million native speakers last year, which leaves a +10 million increase in Spanish native speakers since last year’s Ethnologue 2022 edition. This is the biggest increment of native speakers in the list along with Mandarin Chinese.


1. Mandarin Chinese – 939 Million Native Speakers

The languages that takes the number 1 place in our list and therefore, the most spoken first language in the world is, by far, Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin is only one of the many Chinese dialects spoken in China. However, it is officially considered the Official Language of the People’s Republic of China. Because of this reason, mandarin is often referred as Standard Chinese.

In this other article we will tell you about the Oldest Languages ​​in the World

China has around 1.4 billion inhabitants, around 70% of all Chinese speakers speak mandarin as their father language. This leaves us with about 929 Million Mandarin speakers over a large area in China and roughly 33 countries around the world.

In our last revision, Mandarin Chinese had 929 Million native Speakers, which makes it a +10 million increase in Mandarin Chinese speakers since Ethnologue 2022 edition. This is the biggest increment of native speakers in the list along with Spanish.


Conclusions

The Importance of Tracking Most Spoken Languages by Number of Native Speakers

Understanding the number of speakers of a mother tongue is a key piece of information for understanding the diverse communities that make up our world. Analyzing number of native speakers can be helpful when analyzing metrics like:

  • Level of Proficiency and Education in a certain area
  • Cultural diversity
  • Population Density: The number of speakers of a mother tongue can provide information about the population of a region. If a language has a large number of first language speakers compared to others, it is likely that the corresponding region has a dense population, for example China.
  • Communication patters
  • Vitality: The vitality of a certain language refers to its usage and the number of people that speak it.
  • Economy and Education: A language which has large number of speakers vs total population may indicate that the corresponding region may have a developed economy and a high level of education.
  • Influence of Public Policies in Language Learning.
  • Cultural Diversity: Imagine a region where the total percentage of first language speakers in 3 different languages is similar. In Switzerland, for example, there are 3 main languages: German, Italian and French and, depending on the region, one language is spoken more than the other. This is a clear indicator that the region is culturally diverse.
  • Business Strategy
  • Community Engagement
  • Communication Patterns: The number of speakers of a mother tongue can provide information about communication patterns between people in a region.

How to Determine How Popular a Language is Worldwide?

We constantly get asked if just by analyzing the number of First Language speakers we can determine how popular a language is worldwide. The answer is NO. This is a very complex question, and many other factors need to be taken into consideration. In order to determine how popular a certain language is worldwide, these are (at least) some of the factors we must also consider, added to the ones in the previous paragraph:

  • Number of second language speakers
  • Number of native speakers
  • Geographical distribution
  • Economic and political influence
  • Education
  • Media presence
  • Internet usage
  • Migration.

Language vs Dialects

It is important to note what is considered to be a language. There is a thin dividing line between languages and dialects. A language is usually a broader term that encompasses different dialects, while a dialect is a specific form of a language spoken in a certain area. For example, Spanish and English are languages, while Mexican Spanish and American English are dialects.

This distinction between a language and dialect can be somewhat arbitrary and the classification can vary depending on the context, culture or politics. Many languages that are considered dialects by some, may be considered as languages by others.

Check this article on the dialects of english language for a deeper understanding on this topic.


Thanks for staying until the end. Please refer to our blog for more free articles on language learning, translation, legal document translation and many other topics.

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46 Comments. Leave new

james norton
May 21, 2019 7:16 am

I would really like to thank you for sharing such amazing content with us. The most spoken language in the world is Mandarin and Spanish the second most spoken language in the world and one of the most translated language.

Reply

Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.Keep updating more information from your blog.I will be waiting for your next post

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But French?

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French is useless

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Thanks for sharing. 🙂
But it seems that Portuguese has 250 million (not 220) speakers around th eworld: https://www.up.pt/portuguesuporto/o-portugues-no-mundo/

Reply

Thanks for pointing it out Daniela! The post is now updated 🙂

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I strongly believe Hindi should be #2 on this list, and that’s because for some reason people forget to count the total population of all Hindi speaking states in India. Just UP and Bihar alone are over 350 million people today. There are 4 more (Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Uttarakhand) where Hindi is totally predominant. Even in the tribal states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, and the remote parts of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, Hindi is the language of majority of the people there one way or another. Not to mention, Hindi speaking migrants are the bulk of people driving the economies of linguistic minority states of India. Besides, Urdu is the exact same as Hindi besides the script used. The different dialects of Hindi are more comprehensible to each other than the various Arabic dialects and hence I estimate that almost 600 million people if not more speak Hindi as a native language.

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Hello Yishai. You are probably right, although according to the Ethnologue’s last edition only 342.2 million Hindi speakers are officially registered at this time. The book does actually make a distinction between Hindi and Urdu (69 million native speakers). Many of the tribal states and remote states are probably not registered thought due to fast demographic transitions. Thanks for your comment, appreciate it!

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Posiblemente tengas razón, en otros artículos el Hindi lo sitúan como la segunda del mundo, pero quizás las fuentes de datos pueden reflejar en su contra, otros dialectos que le restan hablantes.

Saludos,

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but this information is only sharing native information

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thanks for sharing, as pointed the Portuguese data was not correct but it seems thta depite correction, still is not, despite mentioned site reporting 250 M (even if almost 10 years old data), same site if looked by country, when sum, total 262M alone with Portuguese as official language, but some countries not considered still, oddly… also some data is wrong… Brasil population is 212,6 M not 200,4M… if looking into wikipedia, 279M living officially speaking as 1st language, many more speak as well as second language and even more importantly all the Portuguese emmigrans all over the world and their descendents, already born in other countries that also speaks it at least at home, may at work as.many live in Portuguese communities … only direct Portuguese people living in other countries are officially 2.6 millions, Portugal is the Europen country with more emigrants living elsewhere, and like this over several generations already )that are not officially Portuguese but speak the language)… so, when counting their descendents and as 2nd language in oher countries for sure more close to 300 Millions…

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Useful post. Thanks for sharing this informative post with us.

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Lester Donald Hughes
July 1, 2022 1:48 pm

Reconsider your figures. You need to reevaluate your figures. You state that the population of those English speakers in the world is 370 million. But as of this date they were 329 million people in the United States alone who speak English.

Reply

Hello Lester, thank you for your comment.

Sorry but your information is wrong according to our sources, in the United States approximately 239 million people speak english as a first language. Feel free to check https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_United_States#:~:text=English%20is%20the%20most%20common,by%20approximately%2035%20million%20people.

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MR. PAung Hlaing
July 3, 2022 6:19 am

Thanks for explaining it all in the world, but which one is the main language will be important language in the future ?

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Arabic I think lol iam native English but this language grow fast , and the Islam tho so i can tell the Arabic language is important to all Muslims in the world .

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No, in my opinion Arabic is useless

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Abdallah Aljamfary
December 30, 2022 10:40 am

more than 300 million natives Arabic speakers and more than 500 million speakers as second language but arabic is excluded,you hate arabs I don’t know why.

Reply

Thank you for your comment Abdallah. We do not hate Arabs or Arabic at all! We feel nothing but love for every people and language in the world. We updated our article to clarify this matter, please feel free to check here: https://www.translateday.com/most-spoken-languages-in-the-world/#5_Bengali_ndash_234_Million_Native_Speakers.

Best regards.

Reply
Fusimi Wandong
January 12, 2023 10:34 am

Proficiency and ease of use should be the criteria taken into consideration in any robust data analysis exercise. Sheer numbers of the native speakers of any given language is in my opinion a flawed premise to gauge the popularity of worldwide languages.

The two criteria which in my opinion would ideally test the robustness and/or populatity of the six official languages used at the UN are first and second language speakers as well as the number of countries that use a given language at the UN. This is where the importance of a language like Arabic and French come into play.

What is it that Jimmy Carter, a former President of the USA said about change? We must adapt to changing times whilst maintaining unchanging principles.

Reply

Thank you for such a beautifully written comment, Fusimi.

We completely agree with your insight. Thanks to your comment we realized this topic may not be clear enough in the article and we proceeded to update it hoping it helps clarify this matter.

Best regards.

Reply
Smart Line USA
February 17, 2023 6:06 am

Amazing and valuable content about top languages in the world. Very informative article.

Reply
Tamil desiyam
March 5, 2023 1:21 am

Good Article about most spoken language in the world greatly informative.

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The username is Mohini but my name is Lasya her granddaughter
March 14, 2023 5:24 am

it’s not at all useful for me because I asked what are the ten most languages speakpen in the world but you just gave the first language Mandarin that’s why I will never suggest my friends to come into these links you will tell something in the heading and you will do something in the link.

Reply

Hello Lasya, thank you for your content.

We are sorry for the missunderstanding, apparently you are looking for the 10 most spoken languages as a first or second language, not for the most spoken first languages in the world. Please make sure to tune or be more precise on your query to get better results.

Thank you, best regards.

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Wow, didnt know these languages are the most spoken in the world this top 10 list is good and shows which ones most people speak first. cool info!

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thx 4 the update 2023 edition!

Reply

where Indonesia ?

Reply

Hello Revival, thank you for your comment.

According to our sources (Ethnologue), Indonesian has 23 Million Native Speakers. However, some studies contradict this number saying it is underestimated, you can check https://indonesian-online.com/indonesian-native-speakers/. Unfortunately, we are unable to recognise this increment as official sources state there are 23 Million Native speakers. In case there is a shift, we will make sure to update the article.

Thanks, best regards

Reply

Dear Ms and Mr.
My name is Helen and I am writting to enquire about where did you search for the Top 10 most spoken languages in the world?
I’m asking beacuse I’m working on an important work for collage i need to hunt for good and valid sources of information.

My sincerly,
Helen A.

Reply

Hello Helen!

The information from this article has been extracted from Ethnologue: Languages of the World (2022, 25th edition), we are waiting for the next edition to be released so that we can expand on the topic. If you need more information, the most viable source on language research is: https://www.ethnologue.com/

Thank you for your feedback, and good luck in your project.

Reply

this is wrong Indonesian have more than 270 million speakers

Reply

Hello Edayy, thank you for your comment.

According to our sources (Ethnologue), Indonesian has 23 Million Native Speakers. However, some studies contradict this number saying it is underestimated, you can check https://indonesian-online.com/indonesian-native-speakers/. Unfortunately, we are unable to recognise this increment as official sources state there are 23 Million Native speakers. In case there is a shift, we will be happy to update the article.

Thanks, best regards

Reply
Hafiz Ibrahim
May 7, 2023 3:01 pm

I am to inform you that Hausa native and speakers should be among the list you mentioned presently Hausa spoken both in native and speakers are up to 150 millions mostly in Nigeria, Niger, Chad Ghana, Sudan Togo Ivory coast,Gambia and others countries in Africa I urge you to take more research upon Hausa spoken to have more details with viable information

Reply

Hello Hafiz, thank you for your comment.

According to the Ethnologue 23rd edition (2023), Hausa is spoken as a first language by 51.7 million speakers, which leaves it 27 in this ranking. You may be looking another metric that is not considered in this ranking.

Thanks, best regarsd.

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Gurmeet singh
May 11, 2023 8:58 am

please update the language data according 2023
this time English is rank 1st language
so don’t confuse us

Reply

Hello Gurmeet,

Thank you for your comment and please feel free to check the Ethnologue 2023 data: our sources, depending on the metric you are evaluating, enlgish may be first in the rank, but this is only related to NATIVE/FIRST language speakers.

Thanks, best regards.

Reply

egypt alone 110 mil native arabic speakers

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thank you for sharing this information. just a reminder to keep the content updated more often.

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Thanks for the information, I am glad to stumble upon this translation blog

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Thanks for making this. Had to show this to my racist aunt who believes that English is the most common language. Very satisfying to point at this and say “Well why don’t you learn Spanish?” After she said “Speak English” to a fast food employee who had a thick accent, and was just doing her best.

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David Alexander
December 9, 2023 8:05 pm

“It is ranked as one of the most influential languages in the world”

Incorrect. English is THE most influential language in the world.

English is the most widely spoken language in the world, with the British Council estimating that around 1.7 billion people use English to a ‘useful level’ (although, most estimates are between 1.4/1.5 billion speakers).

It is the international language of travel, trade, commerce and diplomacy. More people learn English as a second/third or fourth language than every other language combined. English opens up more opportunities than any other language and remains the international language of the world. If a Norwegian citizen met a Danish national in the middle of Taipei, they would probably attempt to communicate in English.

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David Alexander
December 9, 2023 8:34 pm

Latest information regarding English (the most widely spoken language in the world) via The British Council.

“Did you know?
There are an estimated 400 million English language learners in China.
There are an estimated 1 million English language teachers in China.
China’s English language learning market was worth an estimated US$12.3 billion in 2016.
China’s online English language teaching market is the largest in the world, with an estimated size of US$2 billion in 2016 and annual growth exceeding 10 per cent.
The UK supplies 1 in 5 of all English teachers at international schools globally – more than any other country.
1.5 billion people speak English worldwide – roughly one in every five. By 2020, this number is expected to reach 2 billion.

Reply
David Alexander
December 9, 2023 8:36 pm

“Thanks for making this. Had to show this to my racist aunt who believes that English is the most common language. Very satisfying to point at this and say “Well why don’t you learn Spanish?” After she said “Speak English” to a fast food employee who had a thick accent, and was just doing her best.”

—————————

Your Aunt is correct. English is, indeed, the most commonly spoken language in the world. This article only refers to the number of NATIVE speakers.

Reply
Faahad Mohamed
December 14, 2023 6:58 pm

Good info. I find many tutorials on most spoken languages focus on the most used or the most spoken generally, but this brings a good point on first spoken languages or native ones. Keep on the blog, really useful.

Best regards

Reply

Arabic spoken in Egypt alone is over 100 million, why are you so hell bent on erasing a people. #freepalestine

Reply

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