Most popular language in the world: Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic,…


popular language

Hello English learners!

Here we have another super interesting and fun to read post.

This post is going to be about the most popular language in the world.

The answer might just surprise you. So I had some research to do when writing this topic, because of the word popular.

The word popular complicates this category because it might not necessarily mean that it is the most spoken.

What do I mean?

Let’s take a car as an example.

Let’s say that the most popular car is the Ferrari.

Does this mean that there are more Ferrari’s on the road today? No! I think Toyota has the most cars on the road right now.

So how do categorize the word popular?

The best thing to do would be to ask everyone in the world if they could learn any language, which language would they want to learn? Or perhaps, the question should be, which language is your favorite?

Maybe even, which language do you prefer to speak in when speaking to others from a different country?

This post will look at different angles of how to measure the popularity of a language and I will give my conclusion at the end.

No peaking!

Here we go.

The easiest thing to start with is number of people that speak the language.

This might surprise you, but I will explain why English is not number 1, nor is it number 2!

Here are the top 5 most spoken languages as a native language:

  1. Chinese (Mandarin)
  2. Spanish
  3. English
  4. Hindi
  5. Arabic

These rankings are not exactly telling the truth.

The number of Mandarin (which is spoken in mainland China) speakers is taken a group of different languages and dialects.

For example, there are other languages spoken in China like Cantonese and Shanghainese and these languages get thrown into the Mandarin pot.

I know this because I supplied Medical Interpreters for hospitals in New York City.

Just because they were from China, did not mean that they spoke Mandarin.

The company that I worked for needed to supply an interpreter that spoke a certain dialect, otherwise the patient could not communicate with the medical staff.

I believe this also happens with the Hindi language.

Often, we would need to send someone to the hospital, who spoke a dialect from India (either Bengali, Gujarati or Urdu) and not just Hindi.

I would say that the same thing is going on with the Arabic language.

I have studied Arabic and I am very aware of the different dialects.

For example, in Algeria, the way they speak Arabic is a mix of the French language and Arabic.

I have studied Spanish and I know that the Spanish language from Spain has a little different accent with the T – H sound, because the King of Spain had a lisp and the language evolved because of that.

However, at the company, we could send Spanish-speaking interpreters for any Spanish speaking country.

I have travelled to Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland and Scotland. I am originally from the United States of America and I have visited around 45 states from the 50.

The only country where I didn’t understand the English language was in Scotland.

So I don’t think that there is that much grouping of dialects like with Mandarin, Hindi and Arabic with the English language.

Again, this is a ranking by native speakers.

So, why is Mandarin Chinese number 1?

The population of China is 1,388,232,693. That is 1.3 billion people!

That is 18.47% of the world’s population! When you have that many people speaking a language, the number is surely going to be very high.

That is why the Chinese language, Mandarin ranks number 1 by the number of native speakers.

Spanish is number 2 because of the number of countries that have Spanish as a national language.

There are 21 Spanish-speaking countries in the world. All of these countries have a population over 1.7 million people. The average seems to be about 15 million people. That is a lot of people speaking Spanish!

Compare that to the number of English-speaking countries. There are 54 countries!

Hold on, let’s look at the populations.

25 of those countries have less than a million people.

The next list I want to show you is the list of languages by total number of speakers.

This list will be made by total number of people that speak the language as their first language and as a second language.

So, if someone knows English as a second language, we will count that.


#1 Mandarin Chinese with 1051 million speakers


#2 English with 1010 million speakers


#3 Hindi with 652 million speakers


#4 Spanish with 570 million speakers


#5 Arabic with 422 million speakers


The top 5 are still in the top 5, but the order has changed slightly. English has moved up a rank and Spanish has fallen to number 4.

The number of native speakers of Mandarin is 899 million people and the Mandarin as a second language is 178 million people.

What is interesting is the English language.

There are 500 million native speakers and 510 English as a second language speakers.

That means there are more non-native speakers out there than native English speakers!

By this account, it looks like English is a very popular language.

Let’s keep looking for evidence to reach a non-bias conclusion.

I want to see what language has the most reach on the Internet.

Believe it or not, the most used language on the Internet is unknown.

The Internet is very big and not all of it has been explored. There are places known as the dark web; that are dangerous and difficult to get to.

Here are the estimated percentages of the top 10 million websites:


#1 English – 52%


#2 Russian – 6.5%


#3 Japanese – 5.6%


#4 German – 5.5%


#5 Spanish – 5.1%



English has definitely won that round.

Now, let’s focus on the entertainment world of music, movies and books.

Starting with the music industry, it is difficult to rate. But ranking it by market here are the results:

  1. United States 4.8 billion dollars
  2. Japan 2.6 billion dollars
  3. German 1.4 billion dollars
  4. United Kingdom 1.3 billion dollars
  5. France 842 million dollars

The United States definitely dominates the Market with a huge retail value.

Then at number 4 another English-speaking country is the United Kingdom.

I would declare the winner of the Music category as the English language.

Moving on to the Movie industry there are more statistics to go by.

We can look at the largest industries by film productions:


#1 India – 1,255 movies per year


#2 Nigeria – 997 movies per year


#3 United States – 819 movies per year


#4 China – 584 movies per year


#5 Japan – 441 movies per year


India produces the most movies per year. Let us not forget that India has around 125 million English speakers.

Nigeria is a close second, however the Official language of Nigeria is English.

The United States is third, and their movies are produced in English.

The final category is book or literature production.

I found an article on the Top languages in global information production.

The data came from academic journals, newspaper, technical documentation and governmental documents.



Here are the rankings of Book publishing by language:


#1 English – 200,698 per year = 21.84% of total


#2 Mandarin – 100,951 per year = 10.99% of total


#3 German – 89,986 per year = 9.78% of total


#4 Spanish – 81,649 per year = 8.88% of total


#5 Japanese – 56,221 per year = 6.12% of total


English comes in at number one in book publication.

Looking at Newspaper and magazine production here are the rankings:


#1 English – 2499 titles per year = 62.55%


#2 Spanish – 277 titles per year = 6.93%


#3 German – 235 titles per year = 5.88%


#4 Mandarin – 156 titles per year = 3.90%


#5 Hindi -117 titles per year = 2.93%



Again, English comes in at number 1 in newspaper and magazine production.

I think that it is obvious to say that English is the most popular language in the world.

The edge that the English language has is in the information production.

The Internet, movies, music, books and newspapers can reach an audience outside of the country.

English is an information-producing machine and this is what makes the English language the most popular language in the world.

Remember also, the huge number of non-native speakers. There were more non-native speakers than native speakers.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Be sure to leave comments below!

Don’t forget to check out other posts at !

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments