UPDATED – Top 23 languages spoken in the world

In the 21st Edition of Ethnologue, a well-respected and widely used reference by linguists, it shared the Top 23 languages spoken in the world, with the number of first-language speakers and the number of countries where it is established:

Source: https://www.ethnologue.com

Top 23 languages spoken in the world

1. Chinese – 1.299 billion first-language speakers established in 38 countries
2. Spanish – 442 million first-language speakers established in 31 countries
3. English – 378 million first-language speakers established in 118 countries
4. Arabic – 315 million first-language speakers established in 58 countries
5. Hindi – 260 million first-language speakers established in 4 countries
6. Bengali – 243 million first-language speakers established in 4 countries
7. Portuguese – 223 million first-language speakers established in 15 countries
8. Russian – 154 million first-language speakers established  in 18 countries
9. Japanese – 128 million first-language speakers established in 2 countries
10. Lahnda – 119 million first-language speakers established in 6 countries
11. Javanese – 84.4 million first-language speakers established in 3 countries
12. Turkish – 78.5 million first-language speakers established in 8 countries
13. Korean – 77.2 million first-language speakers established in 6 countries
14. French – 76.8 million first-language speakers established in 53 countries
15. German – 76 million first-language speakers established in 28 countries
16. Telugu – 74.8 million first-language speakers established in 2 countries
17. Marathi – 71.8 million first-language speakers established in 1 country
18. Urdu – 69.2 million first-language speakers established in 7 countries
19. Vietnamese – 68 million first-language speakers established in 3 countries
20. Tamil – 66.7 million first-language speakers established in 7 countries
21. Italian – 64.8 million first-language speakers established  in 14 countries
22. Persian – 61.5 million first-language speakers established in 29 countries
23. Malay – 60.7 million first-language speakers established  in 18 countries

Wow, knowing that gives us a better perspective of the world’s languages!

Now, where does your language rank? Did you find these statistics interesting? Share your thoughts below.

Attribution – Global Language Image is made by M. Adiputra

38 Replies to “UPDATED – Top 23 languages spoken in the world”

  1. This is pretty incredible. I actually had no idea that Spanish was more widely-spoken than English, and that Hindi was that low on the list. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t even know what countries every one of these languages is spoken in, but it’s motivation to look up, for sure. May I ask if you are a polyglot? I think everyone secretly fantasizes about the “superpower” where you can speak any language and understand any conversation, I know I do!

    1. Hi Penny, your comment made me smile. I wish I am a Polyglot, but I am bilingual. I fluently speak English and Filipino. Though I am immersed with a lot of languages especially Arabic because I am based here in the Middle East, here in Doha, to be exact. As for Spanish topping English, yeah, it is quite surprising but then again, English is established in more countries that is why it is the international language of trade. But still, the information is still indeed fascinating =) Muchas Gracias!

  2. Hi There, I love languages, as a fact English is not my mother language, it’s German. Now I live in Thailand and had to learn Thai, speaking is ok but for the reading and writing I had no time jet. I always loved to talk to people so I learned languages easier. But still, of all these most popular languages I can only communicate in six. Nice article

    1. Wow, hi Stefan =) You are a Polyglot, it is great meeting you and thanks for dropping by =) Sawasdee Ka! =) Living in Thailand and learning their language must be very challenging. But I believe, soon you’ll be a Thai conversationalist too =) I was in Thailand for four months several years ago while filming a TV reality series and I fell in love with their language too. I actually learned some too =) Again, thanks for reading my article. Kap Kun Kap =)

  3. What an awesome post! I am amazed to know that Chinese and Spanish speakers are higher than English speakers. I am glad that Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Marathi and Urdu is in the list. Also, it is surprising that Malay is in the list as well It is my country’s official language. (Malaysia). You have done a great job in compiling this. I’ve learnt something new. Thank will watch out for your other posts as well.

    1. Thank you Veena for reading the article =) I was also surprised that there are more Spanish speakers than English ones =) So do you also speak more than two languages? =) If you do then I am so glad to have met you here =) I am really happy to meet Polyglots =) Thanks again =)

  4. It’s amazing when your mind has been opened to the diversity that there is in the world. Because I am mainly exposed to three languages- English (my first language), French and Spanish (learnt in school)- I tend to only focus on those and my mind believes that there are only those three. But this list proves that I am so wrong. It’s even more amazing when you realise that these languages are so widely used. And that some of these languages you don’t even know…never heard of. Thank you for this post and thank you for making me a little more knowledgeable!

    1. Thank you Lindsey for dropping by =) I am very glad that I was able to share new information. So you speak three languages? It is an honor to meet you. It just gives me immense joy meeting people who speaks several languages. Thank you again =)

  5. Wow, it makes you think when you read this article!
    English is spoken in so many more countries than I first thought.
    Never thought that Spanish would be a more popular language than English.
    I am afraid I don’t speak any other languages but have always been interested in learning Spanish, and knowing how popular the language is I may take it up.

    Interesting article

    1. Hi Beverly, thanks for dropping by. The data actually mentions first-language speakers so it means the native speakers. This does not take into account, second or third language speakers of the language. Chances are, there are still more English speakers than Spanish ones (if you take account the second and third language speakers). However, there was also a study that this might be hard to quantify as the second, third or even fourth language speakers are spread so vastly that you cannot actually determine the exact figure. Hence, the study was qualified as first-language speakers. Interestingly, Spanish native speakers outnumber the English ones. I too was blown away with this information. And yeah, learning Spanish will be amazing =) Muchas Gracias =)

  6. wow, I am amazed to see Malay language made it to your list, I speak Malay as it is my mother tounge, so, great to see that there are millions of other people that share a simillarity with me.
    So, thanks for sharing this information with me.

    Thank You

    1. That’s amazing =) Seeing your language spoken by millions is badge of honor in your heart =) I am glad I was able to share this information with you =) Thanks for dropping by =)

  7. It’s amazing to see this list and find out how many people speak the languages! I was momentarily surprised by 1 and 2, but after considering it more, it wasn’t that hard to believe. My first language didn’t even make it on the list… =(

    1. Hi Krystle, I was amazed to see 1 and 2 also. I thought English will be 2nd. Though it mentioned first-language speakers only. It can mean that there are still more English speakers than Spanish speakers because English can be the second, third and fourth language of a person. But as research says, it was harder to quantify the 2nd language onwards in terms of the actual number of speakers. So what is your first language? =)

  8. Wow, it’s amazing! I’m overwhelmed about this list of languages spoken in the world. I can say that learning a new language is not that easy but it’s very fun. I’m a Filipino student based in Turkey and I learned Turkish language for the past 2 years until this time. Maybe in the future I would like to learn Spanish for cultural reasons. Learning another language is very beneficial and it can bring more opportunities. :))

    1. Hi KC, Thank you for dropping. I am glad to meet a fellow Filipino here. It is nice that you are on your way to be a polyglot. Knowing English, Filipino, and now Turkish is amazing. and yes, learning Spanish is also great as most of our Filipino languages have some Spanish words in it too. Ikinagagalak kong makilala ka kabayan. Ang mabasa ng ibang lahi ang ating wika ay isa ring magandang pagkakataon upang malasap nila ang sarap ng pagbigkas nga ating wika. (I am glad to meet you here fellow Filipino friend. For other nationalities to read our language in our mother tongue is a good opportunity for them to taste how delicious it is to speak our national language). Thank you again for dropping by.

  9. This list is awesome!
    My dream is to become a polyglot. I currently now three languages and I am learning my third – Russian! 🙂
    I know that the best way to learn a language is to communicate with others in that language. Knowing that Russian is in the 8th place with 154 million speaking it is great, I think I won’t have a problem finding people to speak Russian with…

    1. hi Paulina, it’s amazing that you are now on your third language =) What languages do you speak? It is an honor for me meeting polyglots =) Thank you for visiting and reading the article =)

      1. I speak English, Spanish, Hebrew and hopefully, soon enough I will be able to have a simple conversation in Russian 🙂

        1. Wow that’s fantastic! =) Yo hablo Ingles y Filipino. Yo hablo poco poco Espanyol =) I am amazed to meet Polyglots like you and much more amazed that you are adding more =) Looking forward for your visits and for reading my other articles =) Muchas Gracias! =)

  10. Good insights! Amazed to see English at number 3 and Arabic at 4. I am a bilingual as well can speak hindi/urdu and english. I wish I could speak more specially Arabic because the language is so powerful that a single word can have multi layered meaning and at the sametime can convey sentence worth of communication. To me all languages are beautuful.

    1. H Fred, thanks for visiting. Yeah, I was amazed too. But it has to be noted that the ranking is based on native speakers. I am glad to meet also a fellow Bilingual. I also speak two languages fluently, English and Filipino. and yeah, Arabic is wonderful. I actually know some basic phrases and sentences in Arabic being an expat here in the Middle East =) Again, thanks for visiting.

  11. Well, I was truly surprised to see that Spanish is bigger than English!

    I tried to learn conversational Spanish a couple of years ago, but it kind of went over my head. I would love to learn another language.

    My daughter was able to take Japanese classes for 4 years in high school, and she aced it, going to the top of the class all 4 years; however she is very motivated, and is a huge fan of anime and all things Japanese.

    I admit that I went to your About Me page first to see if it explained Polyglot, and it did! Thank you for teaching me a new word today 🙂

    1. hi Irma, thanks for visiting. I must admit, we had the same reaction when I learned that Spanish native speakers outnumber the English ones =) It is great to know too that your daughter loves Japanese. It is through these visual and social aspects, they get to learn to love another culture. Oh and nice that you visited my About Me page. That’s me and my family in a nutshell. It also shared my inspiration in creating this website =) Thanks again =)

  12. Hi,
    I speak Chinese, English and Malay. I used to learn Japanese and Thai, but not to the stage of being able to carry a decent conversation. With any language, it needs to be practiced in order to really pick it up. That did not happen with my learning of Japanese and Thai. 🙁

    1. Hi Alex, thank you for visiting =) I am glad to have met you, a certified Polyglot. I am really fascinated with individuals who can converse with a lot of languages, more so those who still strive to learn more. I do agree that constant practice must be made and that is one key to master a new language. Thanks again for visiting. Kap Kun Kap. Doumo Arigatou Gozaimasu. Xiexie =)

  13. Hi, I was amazed that Spanish had greater users than English. How can Vietnamese in higher position than Malay? How about bahasa Indonesia ? Is it classify in the same group with Malay? I think bahasa should be in different group with Malay, even the users greater than Malay. What is your opinion ?

    1. hi Melani, thanks for visiting =) The list is actually based on the native speakers, and not on the multilingual individuals. That’s why like you, I was amazed seeing Spanish ahead of English. Further contemplation, I realized that the survey meant that native (single speaker) Spanish speakers outnumber the Engish speaking ones. They didn’t quantify if you know English and another language. As for the Vietnamese, Malay and Bahasa, it’s probably the same concept. There is a possibility that they only compared native language speakers of the countries. Ethnologue.com has been a great resource of linguists so being a legitimate and an expert in this field, it is but fitting to note what they have shared can be scientifically true =) Thanks again =)

  14. Pretty amazing post, when you think of the many languages that are spoken in the world it is just mind-blowing. but what I love is that even though these languages may be so diverse we can still learn them with the many tools that are out there.

    1. Oh yes Norman I totally agree =) That’s why I am very much amazed to those who spoke several languages. Most of them have sought for and acquired the new languages by being interested and by meticulously learning it. I give my hats off to all of them =) Thanks for dropping by =)

  15. What a very interesting list! Was actually surprised that Spanish beat English but equally surprised that English wasn’t lower down the list. Not surprised that Chinese beats out all others though. Thank you for the post.

    1. Hi Megan, thanks for visiting. I was actually surprised too about Spanish and English. However, as a perspective, it actually pertained to first-language speakers, meaning that’s the only language that they speak. English speakers tend to be multilingual, more so polyglots, being a mode of communication on almost every part of the world. But yeah, it is such a beautiful trivia to know =)

  16. Hey JR, thanks for sharing this wonderful post with us. I was unaware that Chinese is the number one language in the world, and that Spanish is number two. When I was in high school, I took Spanish classes, but did poorly in them classes unfortunately. But I have a desire to learn Spanish again, and French also. It would be useful to know these languages as I plan to travel the world very soon. Thanks again, and continue to post great content!!!

    1. Hi Ahmad, thanks visiting =) I was surprised too. Though as I shared, this pertains to native languages. English is the preferred business language but many of us speak English and another language. For the Chinese and the Spanish folks, many of them just speak one language, hence, being counted as one big language community =) Great to know too that you love Spanish and French, I shared the same sentiment =) I’ve also studied Spanish and French, lately has been lurking in my brain having some French friends. French sounds music to my brain =) hehehe… thanks again bro =)

  17. Hi JR, this is so interesting! I would love to be a polyglot. Spanish tops English? Wow. Actually, living here in San Diego, it makes sense. Everywhere I go, there are Spanish speakers here. Makes me wish I would have continued Spanish classes in high school. A lot of jobs here request and encourage bilingual people to apply, great post! 🙂

    1. Hi Tammy, thanks for visiting =) That’s fantastic =) I was surprised too. There’s always time to refresh yourself from the Spanish language. You’ll soon surprise yourself when you reach that milestone =) Thanks again =)

  18. Wow I didn’t know English was below Spanish in this table however I can understand why it is a global language especially for business as it is spoke in many more countries hence why it is taught as a second language in a lot of countries.

    I think this post is a good insight and also one of those learn something new every day topics.

    Great post!

    1. Hi Darren, thanks for the visit =) Yeah, this information is astounding… though this actually pertains to those who natively speak the language… simply put, there are more people speaking only the Spanish language… I believe most English speakers are also bilinguals hence, not really counted as native speakers =) But still, this is indeed a very interesting trivia =) Thanks bro =)

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