How many languages are spoken in the world?
Did you know that today there are approximately 7.102 languages spoken around the world? Of these languages, 9.2 % have fewer than 10 speakers and 46 languages now have only a single speaker. These languages are distributed across countries and continents in different proportions and are spoken by different nations of the world in various dialects.
A language is a set of dialects that are mutually intelligible and each of the dialects is a collection of idiolects (a single speaker's version of the language) similar enough to be grouped together.
It is said that almost all languages use a similar grammatical structure, even if they are not related in vocabulary or origin. This is due to the language’s origin and the linguistic links they all share due to geographical proximity. In contrast, communities that are often isolated from each other by mountains and deserts, have developed multiple languages that are different from each other, for example, in Papua New Guinea there are over 832 different languages, due to the variations in the geographical landscapes.
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The languages spoken on the continents are unevenly distributed between continents and countries, as well as between regions. Not all continents are equally diverse in terms of the number of languages spoken and Asia beats the other continents with 2.301 languages, Africa follows closely with 2,138 while there are 1,300 and 1,064 languages in the Pacific and the Americas. Europe ranks last, with only 286 languages, despite the large number of states.
English is spoken in 101 countries. Surprisingly, this number doubles French and triples Chinese. It is considered the international business language, so people from all over the world have a great interest in learning English. Hence English is the only language with more learners than native speakers.
Arabic is one of the most popular languages in the world. Did you know that it is the official language of many Asian and African countries? It is also the predominant language in Arab countries. These countries have great oil resources and many job opportunities. Many Western countries want to trade and do business with Arab countries. So people choose to learn and speak Arabic in order to get better job opportunity in the Middle East.
Surprisingly, 274 million people around the world speak this Romance language. Of these, 90 million speak French as a second language. Approximately 212 million people use French on a daily basis. Did you know that 1 in 5 Europeans speak French as a second language? These statistics are enough to prove that French is also one of the most widely spoken languages worldwide.
The Chinese language has become more important because China is progressing extremely fast and is expected to beat the United States by 2050 and be the new international economic power. Moreover, China is the most population-dense country in the world and it’s official language is Mandarin, which is one of the Chinese dialects. There are approximately 848 million people who speak Mandarin Chinese.
Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world. There are more than 329 million speakers. The United States is home to the largest Spanish-speaking community: the Hispanic community. The US is therefore the second most Spanish-speaking country after Mexico. Spanish speakers live in approx. 31 countries around the world, making it the most widely spoken language in the world.
Each language has its own importance. Other major languages spoken in the world are Persian, German, Russian, Malay and Portuguese. The importance of these languages is ranked by checking in how many countries they are spoken. For example, Persian is spoken in 29 countries, German in 18 countries, Russian in 16 countries, Malay in 13 countries and Portuguese in 12 countries.
Although Asia boasts the largest number of languages, these are not necessarily divided by country. If take a closer look into the countries, we can see that many of the popular languages are spoken not only in one, but in several countries. That is why English, French and Arabic are the main languages with a large number of countries. English is spoken in 101 countries, while Arabic and French are spoken in 60 and 51 countries. Malay and Portuguese have the fewest countries.
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Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.