The 10 Most Spoken First Languages in the World – 2021 Updated Edition

April 21, 2021

Estimated reading time: 6 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 (2021, 24th edition) and a bunch of other statistical studies. The main variable we take into consideration is the number of native speakers, or first language speakers that is not only affected by the popularity of the language but is also heavily influenced by factors like demographic transition.

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Top 10 Most Spoken First Languages in 2021

The 10 Most Spoken First Languages in the World – 2021 Updated Edition

Currently, these are the 10 most spoken languages in the world in 2021, sorted by number of mother language speakers: Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi-Urdu, Arabic, Bengali, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Western Punjabi.

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 2021:


10. Punjabi – 113 Million Native Speakers

The tenth language in our ranking is Punjabi. This language is spoken by approximately 113 million speakers. This is the most spoken language in Pakistan with its numbers being close to the Hausa language. It is also the fourth most common language in Britain.

Punjabi is considered a distant cousin of the English language as it is part of the wider Indo-Europeans language family. The tonal variation of this language makes it distant from its other relatives in the Indo-European language family.

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


9. 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.


8. Russian – 150 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 150 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. 


7. Bengali – 230 Million Native Speakers

Bengali, also known as Bangla follows Russian 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 230 million speakers, which leaves it very close to Portuguese. These two countries sing their national anthem in this language. 


6. Portuguese – 250 Million Native Speakers

Number six of this most spoken languages ranking is Portuguese. Portuguese is spoken by approximately 250 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. Modern Standard Arabic – 270 Million Native Speakers

Standard Arabic is the fifth most spoken language in the world as a first language. Around 270 million people in 60 countries speak Arabic. It is considered as a sacred language by the Muslims, who believe the Quran should only be read in Arabic. It has various dialects which makes it difficult even for same speakers to understand one another. 

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


4. Hindi – 340 Million Native Speakers

The fourth language is Hindi. Hindi is only spoken as a first language in seven countries, the main ones are Nepal and India. The success of this language is because of the sheer number of people living in the countries. Hindi language counts with around 340 million speakers


3. English – 370 Million Native Speakers

English language is the third most spoken language in the world. It has approximately 370 million native speakers who are spread out in the different continents.

It is the official first language in over one hundred countries. It is ranked as one of the most influential languages in the world because it is also the 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 – 470 Million Native Speakers

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world and is spoken in 31 countries which are mostly around the Latin America and in Spain. This language has about 460 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 because of its phonetic nature meaning that its pronunciation is in the way it looks. In fact, the second most translated book was in Spanish. 


1. Mandarin Chinese – 920 Million Native Speakers

The languages that takes the number 1 place in our list and therefore, the most spoken language in the world is, by far, Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin is one of the many Chinese dialects spoken in China, but it is the Official Language of the People’s Republic of China. 

China has around 1.4 billion inhabitants, around 70% of all Chinese speakers speak mandarin as their father language. This leaves us with about 920 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


Conclusion

It is also important when considering the different numbers of speakers in any of these popular languages to note what is considered to be a language.

There is a thin dividing line between languages and dialects as the difference of the two is politically related. This distinction displays the different languages and dialects and why some cannot be classified as languages.

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.

 

6 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

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.

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