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

January 10, 2023

Estimated reading time: 9 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 (2022, 25th 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.

translateday_rebranded_logo

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, Bengali, Portuguese, 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.

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.

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


9. Yue Chinese – 85 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. 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.


8. Japanese – 130 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 130 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.


7. Russian – 154 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 154 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. 


6. Portuguese – 232 Million Native Speakers

Number six of this most spoken languages ranking is Portuguese. Portuguese is spoken by approximately 232 million people around the world, with a high number being in Africa and South America.

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.


5. 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?


4. Hindi – 344 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 344 million speakers


3. English – 373 Million Native Speakers

English language is the third most spoken language in the world. It has approximately 373 million native speakers who are spread out in the different continents.

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. 

Do you know How Many Dialects does English have?


2. Spanish – 475 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 475 million native speakers in addition to the nonnative speakers.

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”.

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


1. Mandarin Chinese – 929 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.

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


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.

TranslateDay provides Certified Translation Services for all kinds documents. It has been able build an untarnishable trust with their prompt and accurate interpretation.

 

21 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

Reply

But French?

Reply

French is useless

Reply

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 🙂

Reply

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.

Reply

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!

Reply

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,

Reply

but this information is only sharing native information

Reply

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…

Reply

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

Reply
Lester Donald Hughes
July 1, 2022 1:47 pm

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
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
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 ?

Reply

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 .

Reply

No, in my opinion Arabic is useless

Reply
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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Trustpilot

Trustpilot

Translate For Me
close slider

Get your Documents Professionally Translated now!


Our expert professional translators are at your service for just $23.00 per page. This price includes the complete online process of translation, certification and online delivery of your document in 1-2 days. For more info check translation princing and more info


TranslateDay is a Document Translation Agency specialized in large volume Legal Document translations. We are a 100% Internet-Based Translation Company with more than 90k Documents translated, 450 Monthly Active users and +15 years of experience. Feel free to check reviews and testimonials written by our clients


Any questions? We are happy to help, check our Frequently Asked Questions or Contact us!