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.
Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation?
Many countries around the world are facing double or triple-digit inflation. See which countries have the highest inflation rates on this map.
Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation Rate?
Inflation is surging nearly everywhere in 2022.
Geopolitical tensions are triggering high energy costs, while supply-side disruptions are also distorting consumer prices. The end result is that almost half of countries worldwide are seeing double-digit inflation rates or higher.
With new macroeconomic forces shaping the global economy, the above infographic shows countries with the highest inflation rates, using data from Trading Economics.
Double-Digit Inflation in 2022
As the table below shows, countless countries are navigating record-high levels of inflation. Some are even facing triple-digit inflation rates. Globally, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, and Venezuela have the highest rates in the world.
|Country||Inflation Rate, Year-Over-Year||Date|
|🇿🇼 Zimbabwe||269.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇱🇧 Lebanon||162.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇻🇪 Venezuela||156.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇾 Syria||139.0%||Aug 2022|
|🇸🇩 Sudan||103.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇷 Argentina||88.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇷 Turkey||85.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇱🇰 Sri Lanka||66.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇮🇷 Iran||52.2%||Aug 2022|
|🇸🇷 Suriname||41.4%||Sep 2022|
|🇬🇭 Ghana||40.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇺 Cuba||37.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇦 Laos||36.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇩 Moldova||34.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇪🇹 Ethiopia||31.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇷🇼 Rwanda||31.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇭🇹 Haiti||30.5%||Jul 2022|
|🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||29.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇰 Pakistan||26.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇦 Ukraine||26.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇼 Malawi||25.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇹 Lithuania||23.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇪🇪 Estonia||22.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇮 Burundi||22.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe||21.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇻 Latvia||21.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇭🇺 Hungary||21.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇳🇬 Nigeria||21.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇰 Macedonia||19.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇲 Myanmar||19.4%||Jun 2022|
|🇰🇿 Kazakhstan||18.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇵🇱 Poland||17.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇬 Bulgaria||17.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇲 Turkmenistan||17.5%||Dec 2021|
|🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||17.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇲🇪 Montenegro||16.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇴 Angola||16.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||16.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇪🇬 Egypt||16.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇲 Comoros||15.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan||15.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇷🇴 Romania||15.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇾 Belarus||15.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||15.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇷🇸 Serbia||15.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇰 Slovakia||14.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇳 Mongolia||14.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇳🇱 Netherlands||14.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇿 Azerbaijan||13.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇫 Afghanistan||13.6%||Sep 2022|
|🇬🇲 Gambia||13.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇭🇷 Croatia||13.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇼 Botswana||13.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇳 Senegal||13.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇱 Chile||12.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇽🇰 Kosovo||12.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇷🇺 Russia||12.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇳 Guinea||12.4%||Jul 2022|
|🇧🇪 Belgium||12.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇴 Colombia||12.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇿 Uzbekistan||12.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇬 Congo||12.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇳🇮 Nicaragua||12.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇾 Cayman Islands||12.1%||Jun 2022|
|🇲🇺 Mauritius||11.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇿 Mozambique||11.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇮🇹 Italy||11.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇱 Mali||11.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇲🇷 Mauritania||11.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||11.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇹 Austria||11.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇪 Sweden||10.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇬 Uganda||10.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇪 Georgia||10.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇩🇪 Germany||10.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇭🇳 Honduras||10.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇩🇰 Denmark||10.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇵🇹 Portugal||10.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇯🇲 Jamaica||9.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇮 Slovenia||9.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇹 Guatemala||9.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇿🇲 Zambia||9.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇪 Kenya||9.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇲 Armenia||9.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇮🇸 Iceland||9.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇬 Madagascar||9.3%||Aug 2022|
|🇮🇪 Ireland||9.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇱🇸 Lesotho||9.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇳 Tunisia||9.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇷 Greece||9.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇾 Uruguay||9.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇷 Costa Rica||9.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇩 Bangladesh||8.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇾 Cyprus||8.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇫🇴 Faroe Islands||8.8%||Sep 2022|
|🇩🇿 Algeria||8.7%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇵 Nepal||8.6%||Sep 2022|
|🇸🇧 Solomon Islands||8.5%||Aug 2022|
|🇲🇽 Mexico||8.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇼 Guinea Bissau||8.4%||Sep 2022|
|🇦🇱 Albania||8.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇧 Barbados||8.3%||Aug 2022|
|🇫🇮 Finland||8.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇦 Morocco||8.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇪 Peru||8.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||8.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇻 Cape Verde||8.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇵🇾 Paraguay||8.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇱 East Timor||7.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇬 Togo||7.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇭 Philippines||7.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇸 U.S.||7.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇲 Cameroon||7.6%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇴 Norway||7.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||7.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||7.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇸🇻 El Salvador||7.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇹 Malta||7.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇺 Australia||7.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇪🇸 Spain||7.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇩 Chad||7.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||7.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇧🇿 Belize||7.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇦 Namibia||7.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇼 Aruba||7.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇨🇦 Canada||6.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇱🇺 Luxembourg||6.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇴 Somalia||6.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇮🇳 India||6.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||6.8%||Jun 2022|
|🇬🇾 Guyana||6.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇷 Liberia||6.5%||Jul 2022|
|🇧🇷 Brazil||6.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇸 Bahamas||6.3%||Aug 2022|
|🇨🇮 Ivory Coast||6.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago||6.3%||Aug 2022|
|🇫🇷 France||6.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇩🇯 Djibouti||6.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇷 Puerto Rico||6.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇧🇹 Bhutan||6.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇧🇹 Qatar||6.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇭 Thailand||6.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇿 Swaziland||5.8%||Aug 2022|
|🇮🇩 Indonesia||5.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||5.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇯 Tajikistan||5.7%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||5.5%||Jun 2022|
|🇰🇭 Cambodia||5.4%||Jul 2022|
|🇮🇶 Iraq||5.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇯🇴 Jordan||5.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇫🇯 Fiji||5.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇮🇱 Israel||5.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇳🇨 New Caledonia||5.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇿 Tanzania||4.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇲 Bermuda||4.5%||Jul 2022|
|🇪🇷 Eritrea||4.5%||Dec 2021|
|🇲🇾 Malaysia||4.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong||4.4%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇸 Palestine||4.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇳 Brunei||4.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇾 Libya||4.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇻🇳 Vietnam||4.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇪🇨 Ecuador||4.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇭 Bahrain||4.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇯🇵 Japan||3.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇼 Kuwait||3.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇪 Niger||3.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇲🇻 Maldives||3.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇬🇦 Gabon||3.0%||Jul 2022|
|🇱🇮 Liechtenstein||3.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||3.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇭 Switzerland||3.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇨 Seychelles||2.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea||2.9%||Dec 2021|
|🇧🇴 Bolivia||2.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇼 Taiwan||2.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇫 Central African Republic||2.7%||Dec 2021|
|🇻🇺 Vanuatu||2.7%||Mar 2022|
|🇴🇲 Oman||2.4%||Sep 2022|
|🇧🇯 Benin||2.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇳 China||2.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇵🇦 Panama||1.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇲🇴 Macau||1.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇸🇸 South Sudan||-2.5%||Aug 2022|
*Inflation rates based on the latest available data.
As price pressures mount, 33 central banks tracked by the Bank of International Settlements (out of a total of 38) have raised interest rates this year. These coordinated rate hikes are the largest in two decades, representing an end to an era of rock-bottom interest rates.
Going into 2023, central banks could continue this shift towards hawkish policies as inflation remains aggressively high.
The Role of Energy Prices
Driven by the war in Ukraine, energy inflation is pushing up the cost of living around the world.
Since October 2020, an index of global energy prices—made up of crude oil, natural gas, coal, and propane—has increased drastically.
Compared to the 2021 average, natural gas prices in Europe are up sixfold. Real European household electricity prices are up 78% and gas prices have climbed even more, at 144% compared to 20-year averages.
Amid global competition for liquefied natural gas supplies, price pressures are likely to stay high, even though they have fallen recently. Other harmful consequences of the energy shock include price volatility, economic strain, and energy shortages.
“The world is in the midst of the first truly global energy crisis, with impacts that will be felt for years to come”.
-Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA
Double-Digit Inflation: Will it Last?
If history is an example, taming rising prices could take at least a few years yet.
Take the sky-high inflation of the 1980s. Italy, which managed to combat inflation faster than most countries, brought down inflation from 22% in 1980 to 4% in 1986.
If global inflation rates, which hover around 9.8% in 2022, were to follow this course, it would take at least until 2025 for levels to reach the 2% target.
It’s worth noting that inflation was also highly volatile over this decade. Consider how inflation fell across much of the rich world by 1981 but shot up again in 1987 amid higher energy prices. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell spoke to the volatility of inflation at their November meeting, indicating that high inflation has a chance of following a period of low inflation.
While the Federal Reserve projects U.S. inflation to fall closer to its 2% target by 2024, the road ahead could still get a lot bumpier between now and then.
Visualized: The Many Shapes of Bacteria
We introduce the visual diversity of bacteria and illustrate how they are categorized by appearance—from a single cell to an entire colony.
Invisible Diversity: The Many Shapes of Bacteria
Bacteria are amazing.
They were the first form of life to appear on Earth almost 3.8 billion years ago.
They make up the second most abundant lifeform, only outweighed by plants.
And most interesting of all: they exist in practically every environment on our planet, including areas where no other lifeforms can survive. As a result, bacteria exhibit a wide variety of appearances, behaviors, and applications similar to the lifeforms we see in our everyday lives.
The incredible diversity of bacteria goes underappreciated simply because they are invisible to the naked eye. Here, we illustrate how researchers classify these creatures on the basis of appearance, giving you a glimpse into this microscopic world.
A Life of Culture
Though bacteria may look similar to other microorganisms like fungi or plankton, they are entirely unique on a microscopic and genetic level.
Bacteria make up one of the three main domains of life. All life shares its earliest ancestor with this group of microbes, alongside two other domains: the Archaea and the Eukarya.
Archaea are very similar to bacteria, but have different contents making up their cell walls.
Eukarya largely consists of complex, multicellular life, like fungi, plants, and animals. Bacteria are similar to its single-celled members because all bacteria are also unicellular. However, while all Eukarya have nuclear membranes that store genetic material, bacteria do not.
Bacteria have their genetic material free-floating within their cellular bodies. This impacts how their genes are encoded, how proteins are synthesized, and how they reproduce. For example, bacteria do not reproduce sexually. Instead, they reproduce on their own.
Bacteria undergo a process called binary fission, where any one cell divides into two identical cells, and so on. Fission occurs quickly. In minutes, populations can double rapidly, eventually forming a community of genetically identical microbes called a colony.
Colonies can be visible to the human eye and can take on a variety of different shapes, textures, sizes, colors, and behaviors. You might be familiar with some of these:
Superstars of a Tiny World
The following are some interesting bacterial species, some of which you may be familiar with:
This species is unusually large, ranging from 200-700 micrometers in length. They are also incredible picky, living only within the guts of sturgeon, a type of large fish.
D. radiodurans is a coccus-shaped species that can withstand 1,500 times the dose of radiation that a human can.
Despite being known famously for poisoning food and agriculture spaces from time to time, not all E.coli species are dangerous.
Down in the depths of a South African gold mine, this species thrives without oxygen, sunlight, or friends—it is the only living species in its ecosystem. It survives eating minerals in the surrounding rock.
Known for causing stomach ulcers, this spiral-shaped species has also been associated with many cancers that impact the lymphoid tissue.
Most living things cease to survive in cold temperatures, but P. halocryophillus thrives in permafrost in the High Arctic where temperatures can drop below -25°C/-12°F.
‘Bact’ to the Future
Despite their microscopic size, the contributions bacteria make to our daily lives are enormous. Researchers everyday are using them to study new environments, create new drug therapies, and even build new materials.
Scientists can profile the diversity of species living in a habitat by extracting DNA from an environmental sample. Known as metagenomics, this field of genetics commonly studies bacterial populations.
In oxygen-free habitats, bacteria continuously find alternative sources of energy. Some have even evolved to eat plastic or metal that have been discarded in the ocean.
The healthcare industry uses bacteria to help create antibiotics, vaccines, and other metabolic products. They also play a major role in a new line of self-building materials, which include “self-healing” concrete and “living bricks”.
Those are just a few of the many examples in which bacteria impact our daily lives. Although they are invisible, without them, our world would undoubtedly look like a much different place.
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