Top 5 most spoken languages in the world in 2020?

December 3, 2020
2 min read

Countless reasons exist for everyone out there to learn a new language today. From travelling, seizing new business opportunities abroad, to just plain curiosity; there’s always good motivation behind learning new phrases and idioms. Which begs the question:

Which language exactly takes top priority amongst language learners?

Well, the question is far more sensible if we consider the 7,117 languages currently spoken across the world. However, this number remains to fluctuate as we keep discovering new languages in some unexplored territories, while others instead remain at risk of extinction.

With such a vast number of languages to choose from, new beginners may find difficulty choosing a new lingo to study. For this reason, the decision is usually based on both subjective and objective criteria.

Among personal reasons, there is intention and motivation – the ‘Why do I want to study this language, and how seriously?’ part. If bonding with a distant foreign relative from abroad is what you’re aiming for (for example), then you may feel inspired to learn their language. However, if you’re planning instead to move out of the country, then it’s probably convenient to study whatever language is spoken wherever you’re headed to. What remains true in both cases is that without solid motivation, the learning process will be painfully slow and full of obstacles.

On the other hand, when considering the objective criteria, students may focus on the ease of learning, culture and literary works, business opportunities, as well as an attractive number of speakers of a particular language, which would include both native speakers (L1) as well as other second-language (L2) speakers. This combined number is far more significant than merely taking native speakers into consideration: Language-learners of any given language have the possibility to connect with both first-, and second-language speakers, despite their own learning level.

Top 5 Most Spoken Languages in 2020

This is the top 5 most spoken languages according to Etnologue:

1. English 🇬🇧 (surely, you’re not surprised, are you?)

1.268 Billion Speakers – with 898.4 million being L2.

2. Mandarin Chinese 🇨🇳

1.120 Billion Speakers - with 198.7 million being L2.

3. Hindi 🇮🇳

637 Million Speakers – with 295.3 million being L2.

4. Spanish 🇪🇸

538 Million Speakers – with 74.9 million being L2.

5. French 🇫🇷

277 Million Speakers – with 199.3 million being L2.

When compared with the data from 2019, it's evident how the number of speakers has grown for each language, however overall ranking shows the same languages holding identical positions.

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