Ranked: The 100 Most Spoken Languages Worldwide
Even though you’re reading this article in English, there’s a good chance it might not be your mother tongue. Of the billion-strong English speakers in the world, only 33% consider it their native language.
The popularity of a language depends greatly on utility and geographic location. Additionally, how we measure the spread of world languages can vary greatly depending on whether you look at total speakers or native speakers.
Today’s detailed visualization from WordTips illustrates the 100 most spoken languages in the world, the number of native speakers for each language, and the origin tree that each language has branched out from.
How Do You Define A Language?
The data comes from the 22nd edition of Ethnologue, a database covering a majority of the world’s population, detailing approximately 7,111 living languages in existence today.
The definitions of languages are often dynamic, blurring the lines around a singular understanding of what makes a language:
- Linguistic: focused on lexical and grammatical differences, or on variations within speech communities
- Social: focused on cultural or political factors, as well as heritage and identity
For the purposes of measurement, the researchers use the ISO 693-3 set of criteria, which accounts for related varieties and dialects—ensuring that linguistics are not the only factor considered in this count of languages.
Here are the language origins of the 100 most spoken languages:
Indo-European languages have the widest spread worldwide. According to Ethnologue, the language family contains over 3 billion speakers in total. Interestingly, there are actually 1,526 Niger-Congo languages altogether, though only 12 are represented here.
Let’s now dive into the top 10 most spoken languages overall.
Which Languages Have the Most Speakers?
It comes as no surprise that English reigns supreme, with over 1.1 billion total speakers—or roughly 15% of the global population. Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and French round out the top five.
|Rank||Language||Total Speakers||Language Origin|
|2||Mandarin Chinese||1,117 million||Sino-Tibetan|
|6||Standard Arabic||274 million||Afro-Asiatic|
However, this is only one piece in the full fabric of languages.
The metrics for native speakers tell a slightly different tale, as Mandarin Chinese shoots up to 918 million—almost 2.5x that of English native speakers.
|Rank||Language||Native Speakers||Language Origin|
|1||Mandarin Chinese||918 million||Sino-Tibetan|
|9||Western Punjabi||93 million||Indo-European|
Note: No native speaker data was available for Filipino, Standard Arabic, Nigerian Pidgin, or Cameroonian Pidgin.
Here, Spanish comes in strong second for native speakers with 460 million, considering it’s well-used across Latin America. The Indian languages of Hindi and Bengali cap off the top five by native speakers as well.
These are the biggest languages people learn growing up, but what about the ones they pick up later in life?
What About Second (L2) Languages?
Nearly 43% of the world’s population is bilingual, with the ability to switch between two languages with ease.
From the data, second language (L2) speakers can be calculated by looking at the difference between native and total speakers, as a proportion of the total. For example, 66% of English speakers learned it as a second language.
Swahili surprisingly has the highest ratio of L2 speakers to total speakers—although it only has 16 million native speakers, this shoots up to 98 million total speakers. Overall, 82% of Swahili speakers know it as a second language.
Swahili is listed as a national or official language in several African countries: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s likely that the movement of people from rural areas into big cities in search of better economic opportunities, is what’s boosting the adoption of Swahili as a second language.
Indonesian is another similar example. With a 78% proportion of L2 speakers compared to total speakers, this variation on the Malay language has been used as the lingua franca across the islands for a long time. In contrast, only 17% of Mandarin speakers know it as a second language, perhaps because it is one of the most challenging languages to learn.
Keeping Language Traditions Alive
Languages are fluid, and constantly evolving—altogether, the 100 most spoken languages paint a unique picture across centuries of a changing world. Here’s the full list of these languages, by types of speakers and language origin.
|Rank||Language||Total Speakers||Native Speakers||Origin|
|26||Egyptian Spoken Arabic||65M||65M||Afro-Asiatic|
|33||Southern Min Chinese||50M||50M||Sino-Tibetan|
|45||Moroccan Spoken Arabic||33M||27M||Afro-Asiatic|
|48||Algerian Spoken Arabic||32M||29M||Afro-Asiatic|
|49||Sudanese Spoken Arabic||32M||32M||Afro-Asiatic|
|56||North Levantine Spoken Arabic||25M||25M||Afro-Asiatic|
|61||Sa'idi Spoken Arabic||22M||22M||Afro-Asiatic|
|74||Mesopotamian Spoken Arabic||16M||16M||Afro-Asiatic|
|78||Hijazi Spoken Arabic||15M||15M||Afro-Asiatic|
|98||South Levantine Spoken Arabic||12M||12M||Afro-Asiatic|
|99||Tunisian Spoken Arabic||12M||12M||Afro-Asiatic|
|100||Sanaani Spoken Arabic||11M||11M||Afro-Asiatic|
One reason these languages are popular is that they are actively and consistently used. Unfortunately, nearly 3,000 (about 40%) of all languages are at risk of being lost, or are already in the process of dying out today.
Languages play a crucial role in our daily lives. … [Their] losses have huge negative impacts indigenous peoples’ most basic human rights.
—UN, IYoIL statement
As a result, the United Nations declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYoIL), with a resolution to continue fostering these languages and pass on their knowledge for future generations.
The Most Loved Brands, by Generation
Can a brand transcend time and be all things to all people? This graphic seeks to find out by visualizing the most loved brands by generation.
The Most Beloved Brands, by Generation
When it comes to buying into brands, consumers are spoiled for choice.
The vast amount of options available makes it increasingly difficult for brands to build meaningful emotional connections with them—but for the brands that do, the payoff can be huge.
Today’s graphic pulls data from MBLM’s 2020 Brand Intimacy Report and visualizes the top 10 brands that different generations connect with the most.
Can Emotion Be Measured?
Brands that tap into consumers’ emotions can establish higher levels of trust. This in turn creates a culture of loyalty that could ensure a unique standing in the market and long-term growth.
In fact, intimate brands that have a strong emotional bond with their consumers tend to outperform top companies listed on the S&P 500 and Fortune 500 in both revenue and profit. To measure how brands emotionally connect with consumers, MBLM looked at four key factors:
- Users: The existing relationship between a brand and a consumer
- Emotional Connection: The degree of positive feelings the user has for a brand, and the extent to which their personal values align with the brand’s values
- Archetype: The six markers that are present among intimate brands, which include fulfillment, identity, enhancement, ritual, nostalgia, and indulgence
- Stage: The degree of intensity in the relationship across three phases: sharing, bonding, and fusing
- Intimacy Score: Based on these four components, a score is assigned, ranging from 0-100
The total score also reveals which brands rank the highest across different age groups. While there are some commonalities across each generation, can brands be all things to all people?
The Chosen One
There are very few brands that have the luxury of retaining loyal customers from different age brackets. Amazon, however, manages to transcend age. The retail giant appears in the top five for Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers—with the latter awarding the brand their #1 spot.
Every generation named “enhancement” as Amazon’s defining trait, meaning their lives have improved as a result of the relationship. The “ritual” trait also scored high, with users claiming the brand has become ingrained into their daily behavior.
Ranked: Top Brands by Generation
Gen Z and Millennials (18-34)
Sony-owned PlayStation holds the title for the most intimate brand among Millennials, climbing up from the 8th spot in 2019. Impressively, more than 50% of Millennials have an emotional connection to the brand, with men having a particularly strong affinity for it.
Having recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, the gaming brand’s success has been fueled by the increasing popularity of multiplayer and professional gaming, as well as new product innovation—with five of the ten best selling consoles owned by PlayStation.
|#1||PlayStation||78.3||Media and Entertainment|
|#4||Disney||67.8||Media and Entertainment|
|#8||YouTube||63.0||Media and Entertainment|
|#9||Xbox||59.8||Media and Entertainment|
|#10||Nintendo||56.8||Media and Entertainment|
Interestingly, when Gen Z (18-24) are singled out, Microsoft-owned Xbox ranks as #1, increasing its score to 73.5 in 2020 from 49.7 in 2018.
Gen X (35-54)
As the generational middle child, Gen X did not grow up with the same access to technology. However, their tech adoption is almost on par with Millennials, with similar adoption rates across tablet and smartphone ownership.
It is no surprise therefore, that Apple has captured the hearts of this generation, sitting proudly in first place. When the iPhone launched in 2007, this group was between 22-41 years old, so they have likely been loyal followers of the tech brand since its earlier days.
|#3||Netlix||66.1||Media and Entertainment|
|#5||Disney||65.0||Media and Entertainment|
|#8||Xbox||57.0||Media and Entertainment|
While this generation has no qualms about shopping online, 72% of them shop in brick and mortar stores and are satisfied with doing so—which may be part of the reason why retail giant Walmart joins Amazon in the top 10.
Baby Boomers (55-64)
Controlling almost 70% of disposable income in the U.S., Baby Boomers are arguably the most influential of all consumer groups.
While they feel the most emotionally connected to Amazon, it’s also true that Apple was another tech brand to win the affection of this age group.
|#6||Hershey’s||54.8||Consumer Packaged Goods|
|#8||Pillsbury||51.8||Consumer Packaged Goods|
|#9||Kellogg’s||50.0||Consumer Packaged Goods|
|#10||Pepsi||50.0||Consumer Packaged Goods|
This generation dominates almost 50% of consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales in the U.S.—which likely explains why the rest of their top brands are more traditional household names, such as Macy’s, Hershey’s, and Kellogg’s.
It is also clear from the ranking that this group values brands with nostalgic qualities, as well as the ability to provide them with moments of indulgence.
The Changing Brand Landscape
The brand and consumer relationship has shifted with the ages, but each generation’s unique value system has remained the most important piece of the puzzle.
It is worth noting that none of the Baby Boomer’s favorite brands appear in the ranking for those aged 18-24 (Gen Z). Are the preferences of younger generations signalling a cultural shift, in which we place more value on distraction rather than satisfaction?
Note: The 2020 Brand Intimacy Report covers an age range of 18-64. The way that the ranking is structured makes it difficult to reflect conventional demographic groups (e.g. Gen Z, the Silent Generation etc.)
Mapped: The Ins and Outs of Remittance Flows
Every year, migrant workers send billions of dollars back to their home countries—reaching $550 billion in 2019. Where do these remittance flows wind up?
Mapped: The Ins and Outs of Remittance Flows
The global immigrant population is growing at a robust pace, and their aggregate force is one to be reckoned with. In 2019, migrants collectively sent $550.5 billion in money back to their home countries—money transfer flows that are also known as remittances.
Remittances serve as an economic lifeline around the world, particularly for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Today’s visualization relies on the latest data from the World Bank to create a snapshot of these global remittance flows.
Where do most of these remittances come from, and which countries are the biggest recipients?
Remittances: An Origin Story
Remittances are a type of capital flow, with significant impacts on the places they wind up. These money transfers have surpassed official aid being sent to LMICs for decades, and in this day and age, are rivaling even Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows.
Remittance flows mainly help improve basic living standards such as housing, healthcare, and education, with leftover funds going towards other parts of the economy. They can also be a means for increasing the social mobility of family and friends back home.
Altogether, 50% of remittances are sent in either U.S. dollars, or the closely-linked currencies of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, such as the Saudi riyal. It’s not surprising then, that the U.S. is the biggest origin country of remittances, contributing $68.5 billion in 2018—more than double that of the next-highest country, Saudi Arabia, at $33.6 billion.
Remittance Flows As A Safety Net
The impact of remittances on LMICs can vary depending on what you measure. In absolute terms, the top 10 LMIC recipients received $350 billion, or nearly 64% of total remittances in 2019.
Top Remittance Recipients in 2019 (USD)
|Rank||Country||Remittance Inflows||% of Nominal GDP|
India tops the chart as the largest remittances beneficiary, followed by China and Mexico. Interestingly, these three countries are also the main destinations of remittance flows from the U.S., but in the reverse order. Mexico and the U.S. have one of the most interconnected remittance corridors in the world.
However, the chart above makes it clear that simply counting the dollars is only one part of the picture. Despite these multi-billion dollar numbers, remittances are equal to only a fraction of these economies.
By looking at remittances as a percentage of nominal GDP, it’s clear that they can have an outsize impact on nations, even if the overall value of flows are much lower in comparison.
Top Remittance Recipients in 2019 (% of GDP)
|Rank||Country||Remittance Inflows||% of Nominal GDP|
|#5||🇰🇬 Kyrgyz Republic||$2.4B||29.6%|
|#7||🇸🇻 El Salvador||$5.6B||20.8%|
|#10||🇵🇸 West Bank and Gaza||$2.6B||17.6%|
It’s clear that the cash influxes provided by remittances are crucial to many smaller countries. Take the Polynesian archipelago of Tonga, for example: even though it only saw $190 million in remittances from abroad, that amount accounts for nearly 40% of the country’s nominal GDP.
Will The Remittance Tides Turn?
The World Bank projects remittance flows to increase to nearly $600 billion by 2021. But are such projections of future remittance flows reliable? The researchers offer two reasons why remittances may ebb and flow.
On one hand, anti-immigration sentiment across major economies could complicate this growth, as evidenced by Brexit. The good news? That doesn’t stop immigration itself from taking place. Instead, where these migrants and their money end up, are constantly in flux.
This means that as immigration steadily grows, so will remittance flows. What’s more, fintech innovations have the potential to bolster this progress, by making money transfers cheaper and easier to access.
Tackling [high transaction costs] is crucial not only for economic and social development, but also for improving financial inclusion.
—UN ESCAP, Oct 2019
Markets1 year ago
The Jeff Bezos Empire in One Giant Chart
Maps1 year ago
Mercator Misconceptions: Clever Map Shows the True Size of Countries
Advertising1 year ago
Meet Generation Z: The Newest Member to the Workforce
Misc1 year ago
24 Cognitive Biases That Are Warping Your Perception of Reality
Advertising1 year ago
How the Tech Giants Make Their Billions
Technology1 year ago
The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web
Chart of the Week1 year ago
Chart: The World’s Largest 10 Economies in 2030
Environment1 year ago
The World’s 25 Largest Lakes, Side by Side