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Worldly | Which languages ​​are most spoken in the world?

In this edition of worldly let's talk about languages. Which languages ​​are most spoken in the world? The world population of 7.9 billion people (May 2021) together speaks about 6.500 languages ​​spread over 7 continents en 195 countries† Where do languages ​​actually come from and what is a language anyway? In this article you will find out which languages ​​are most spoken in the world and what the main differences are.

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What is a language?

First of all, it is good to know what a language actually is. A language is classified by having at least 1.000 natural speakers, although many other languages ​​are spoken around the world that have fewer than this number.

What is a dialect?

A dialect is defined as a variety of largely spoken language, or by a speech pattern that alters a largely spoken language.

What is an accent?

An accent is defined as a way of pronouncing that is defined by area or geographic location, or by speech of a language that is not natural to the speaker.

I love you - in different languages
I love you – in different languages

What are the most spoken languages ​​in the world?

The top three most spoken languages ​​in the world are Chinese/Mandarin, Hindi/Urdu and English. Chinese is by far the most widely spoken. The figures below come from the latest estimates of May 2021 and are the sum of people who speak the language as a mother tongue or as a second language.

Fun fact: The amount of people who speak English has grown enormously in recent years, partly because in countries such as India and China, English is increasingly seen as the language of the world. Many children learn English from an early age.
  • Chinese / Mandarin – 1,39 billion.
  • Hindi/Urdu – 1,22 billion.
  • English – 712 million.
  • Arabic – 667 million. Arabic consists of the following ten dialects: Algerian, Egyptian, Moroccan, Saidi, Sudanese, Levantine, Mesopotamian, Najdi, Tunisian, and Sanami.
  • Spanish – 589 million.
  • Russian – 354 million.
  • French – 275 million.
  • Bangladeshi – 271 million.
  • Portuguese – 258 million.
  • German – 132 million.
  • Japanese – 127 million.
  • Turkish – 80 million.
  • Italian – 67 million.
  • Hausa – 50 million.
Welcome in different languages
Welcome in different languages

How many language groups are there in the world?

There are ten major language groups in use around the world, which are further divided into thousands of language families. The largest language group is the Niger/Congo language group – spoken in Central Africa – with about 1.500 different languages.

English is derived from the Germanic language family, of which 53 are distinct languages, including English, German, Dutch, the Scandinavian languages, and Afrikaans, a language family derived from the Indo-European language group, of which there are about 439. several languages ​​including Spanish, French, Russian, Hindi and Urdu.

The Indo-European language group is the group with the largest number of natural speakers, with approximately 3 billion natural speakers worldwide.

Which countries have the most nationally recognized languages?

Below is a list of the countries with the most nationally recognized languages:

  • Papua New Guinea - 820 recognized languages – Official language English.
  • Indonesia - 742 recognized languages – Official language Indonesian
  • Nigeria - 516 recognized languages – Official language English.
  • India - 427 recognized languages – Official languages ​​English and Hindi/Urdu.
  • China - 241 recognized languages – Official language Mandarin.
  • Brazil - 200 recognized languages – Official language Portuguese.
  • Philippines - 175 recognized languages – Official languages ​​Filipino and English.
A shelf full of books in different languages
A shelf full of books in different languages

What is the oldest language in the world?

No one really knows for sure which language is the world's oldest, as there are vast differences between ancient spoken languages ​​and their written forms. Languages ​​also evolve over time, making their modern equivalents totally unrecognizable from their original form. Many of the world's modern languages ​​stem from a mix of different languages, making them completely different from their original base language.

However, linguists have determined that the world's oldest written form of language is most likely the two ancient languages ​​of Sumerian, spoken in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) from about 3.000 BC to about 1.800 BC and Egyptian, spoken in modern-day Egypt, from about 3.000 BC to about the 17th century.

The oldest surviving spoken languages ​​in the world have been identified as Albanian, Armenian, Bantu, Basque, Tamil and Welsh, although some linguists now believe that the Australian aboriginal language of Pama Nyungan may well have survived since the last ice age. .

What is the youngest language in the world?

According to linguists, the youngest language in the world is Afrikaans, spoken in South Africa† The language comes from the Germanic family of languages ​​and descends from Dutch en Duitse Protestants who were fleeing persecution by the Roman Catholic Church in the 17th century.

afrikaans is spoken by approximately twenty-three million people, eight million natural speakers and fifteen million as a second language.

What are language isolates?

There are several language isolates around the world. A language isolate is a language with no genetic relationship to any modern language group. The vast majority of these language isolates are found on the South American continent, although the language isolate that has most perplexed linguists is Basque/Euskara, spoken in northern Spain and southern France, of which linguists can find absolutely no common tribe or language family, wherever.

What are the world's longest and shortest alphabets?

The language with the world's largest alphabet is Khmer, the official language of Cambodia, with 74 letters. Khmer is an Austro-Asiatic language spoken by about 12 million people.

The language with the world's smallest alphabet is Rotokas, an East Papuan language, with only 12 letters. Rotokas is spoken by about 4.000 people on the island of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

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