The development of human communication in the world has enabled for widespread interactions among various groups of individuals. Today, experts predict that there are over 6,000 different languages being spoken around the world. Although the majority of these languages are only used by small, isolated groups of people, there are some languages that are spoken in large numbers in many different countries. The following list entails a description and history of the 10 most common languages in the world.
Since China has the largest population in the world, it is no surprise that Chinese is the most commonly spoken language in the world. However, despite its large number of native speakers, Chinese has failed to spread around the world and remains highly concentrated in central Asia, most notably in the countries of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The Chinese language exists in many different distinctions but remain held together by common script. Although Chinese remains isolated in central Asia, it has become a very large component of the Chinese culture and historically considered to be the “language of learning” in much of the Far East. Chinese has had a profound influence on the development of unique languages and cultures in the surrounding countries of Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand. Chinese-speakers typically take pride in their language and its complexity to learn. The challenge of mastering the concepts of the language is perhaps one of the greatest reasons that Chinese has not become very popular outside of Asia.
Although the world does not have a universal language, English has become closest to receiving this title. English is the official language of science, preferred language of the internet, and most commonly used language in international communication. For these reasons along with many others, English is widely considered to be the important language to know and among the most commonly spoken second languages. English’s widespread popularity around the world is due to a variety of reasons, most notably the historical influence of the British Empire, the contemporary impact of American globalization, and the language’s ability to adapt to the demands of other languages and cultures. Despite its widespread popularity, English is only spoken as the native language in a small percentage of the world. Countries speaking English as their primary language include the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, New Guinea, Philippines, and many others.
As the third most commonly spoken language in the world, Spanish is the official language of more countries than any other language. With the exception of Brazil and a few others, practically the entire continent of South America and strip of Central America speak Spanish. Spanish’s popularity in this region of the world is due to Spain’s massive role during the Age of Exploration which resulted in its claim to just about the entire southern half of the New World. With the exception of Spain, Spanish-speaking countries are generally still developing and, therefore, have historically had little impact on global affairs as a whole. Therefore, Spanish has failed to become popular in just about anywhere outside its native-speaking countries. However, due to significant Mexican immigration to the United States during recent years, Spanish has become the most popular second language of the United States.
Hindustani is India’s primary language. Since India is the second most populous country in the world, Hindustani is spoken by a very large number of people. Communication with Hindustani outside India and its surrounding regions is fairly limited. In addition, due to English’s already prominent existence in India, the necessity of Hindustani is controversial and its future is unpredictable. However, Hindustani does give India an original culture and plays an important role in the development of their nation and understanding of their history.
Arabic is one of the world’s oldest languages and is the official language of most Islamic nations. The language is, therefore, most commonly spoken in the Middle East in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, and Kuwait. Due to the widespread popularity of Islam as a religion, Arabic is well-known and spoken in many parts of the world outside the Middle East. As a result, it is considered to be the most international language that is spoken outside of the Western World.
Bengali is the official language of Bangladesh, a country with a population of over 1 million people. Like Hindustani, Bengali is fairly limited to Southeast Asia and has not spread far beyond its neighboring countries. The isolated existence of Bengali in Bangladesh has contributed to the creation of a unique, original culture and history in this area of the world. As the language continues to spread to India, the popularity of Bengali is far greater than many people in the Western World would expect.
Originating from the tiny European country of Portugal, it is hard to believe that Portuguese has become so popular in so many areas of the world. Like Spain, Portugal was extremely active during the Age of Exploration and spread its language to both areas of Africa and the New World. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, which is the largest and most populous country of South America. The popularity of Portuguese is consistently on the rise as Brazil continues to spread its influence around South America. However, as English becomes more and more popular in Brazil itself, the fate of Portuguese is unpredictable.
Russian is the official language of Russia. Despite its recent historical significance, its popularity is now on the decline. During the rise of the Soviet Union about 70 years ago, many countries in Eastern Europe and around its borders were forced to learn Russian as their primary language. As these countries became independent during recent years, they have made conscious efforts to eradicate any remains of the Russian language and culture. Countries in Eastern Europe have now turned to languages such as English and German. Despite the declining popularity of the Russian language, Russia’s large population and recent historical influence both contribute to keeping it as one of the 10 most spoken languages in the world.
Japanese is the official language of Japan and is spoken in many parts of East Asia. However, Japanese-language study is on the rise in many areas around the world, particularly in Asia, for the purpose of finding work in Japan. In addition, the widespread popularity of Japan’s pop culture, such as comic books and virtual animation, make it a highly desirable language to learn for many people. The Chinese and South Korean governments have been making strenuous efforts to increase the number of Japanese-speakers and have been quite successful.
Historically, German was at times extremely important in many areas of the world. During the early 1900s, Germany was extremely active in the advancement of science and technology and, as a result, many American scientists developed a working knowledge of the language. After a setback following World War I, the German language lost much of its popularity. During the time of World War II, German became very popular in Japan, but then declined following the war. During more recent years, German has become increasingly popular with countries of Eastern Europe that are trying to recover their identity following the decline of the Soviet Union.