What Are the World’s Most Widely Spoken Languages?

  • ESL Courses
  • April 15, 2024
  • 3 min read
people of different language communication talking

The most common languages spoken in the US are, by a massive margin, Spanish and English, but because of the size and diverse population of America, nearly every language on earth is spoken inside its borders.

In this article, we’ll be looking at the world’s most widely spoken languages and where they originate from.

What Are the World’s Most Widely Spoken Languages?

Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is actually an overarching term from a close family of inter-related languages spoken in the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and Singapore.

Spoken by 1.09 billion people, split between 897 million native speakers and 193 million non-native speakers, Mandarin Chinese is also related to Cantonese, Tibetan, Burmese.

In Chinese, Mandarin is referred to as 普通话 (Putonghua) or “the common speech” as it was implemented as the official language of China during the Han period. The written version of Mandarin has about 8,000 pictographic characters, with each symbol representing a different word.


Hindustani actually covers two of the main languages spoken in the north and north-western parts of the Indian subcontinent. Hindi is spoken across northern and central India and is the official language of the Indian government. Urdu is primarily spoken in neighboring Pakistan, which was once a part of India.

The reason that the two languages are lumped together is that, while there are slight changes in vocabulary and pronunciation between them, the 544 million speakers of either language can readily understand each other.

The major difference is in the writing system, with Hindi is usually written in Devanagari script and Urdu written right-to-left with a script that’s closely related to the Arabic alphabet.


With 40 million native speakers, the US is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, lagging only behind only Mexico, although it is expected to overtake Mexico during the next century.

The language itself originated in, surprise surprise, Spain, in the Castile region. It was then spread by Spanish colonial efforts to much of South and Central America and even parts of Africa. 

Today nearly 527 million speak Spanish worldwide.


Spoken by 983 million across the world, English became the global lingua franca because of the colonialist dominance of the British Empire and the later cultural and economic power of its former colony, the United States.

English has deep Germanic roots and the name itself comes from the Germanic people who settled in Britain in the first millennium A.D and were from a region in northern Germany called Anglen.

Alongside the germanic base, English has heavy influences from Dutch, French, and the Latin introduced by the French-speaking Normans who conquered Britain in 1066 A.D.

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Chief Information Officer

Dr. Thomas Kenny was born in Chicago, raised in Las Vegas, but considers Northwest Career College his true home. He has been working at NCC for as long as he can remember. He started by moving and building furniture on…Read Full Bio