When we talk about the most widely spoken languages in the world, we mean to say the number of countries and territories where it is spoken. We won’t be basing it on the number of people who can speak the language. After all, it is impossible to talk to each and every person on the planet. What is more plausible is to be able to visit each country in this world. So the question is, how many places can you go to where the people will actually understand your language? How widely spoken in this world is your native language?
So here now is a list of the top ten most widely spoken languages in the world based on the number of countries where it is used.
1. English – 59 countries
The old British Empire spread far and wide, so much so that the sun never set for them. Along with former territories of the United States, the English language has become the most widely spoken in the world. Countries that speak it include Antigua, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Belize, Botswana, Cameroon, Canada, Dominica, Eritrea, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
2. French – 29 countries
The French used to have a vast empire of its own, colonizing several countries in the African continent. It remains one of the official languages of international organizations like the Olympic movement. French is widely spoken in countries like Andorra, Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo Republic, Congo Democratic Republic, Cote d’ Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Switzerland, Togo and Vanuatu.
3. Arabic – 25 countries
The Arab world encompasses much of West Asia and Northern Africa. The Arabic language is spoken in Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
4. Spanish – 24 countries
Time was when Spain ruled half the world courtesy of the Treaty of Tordesillas. This allowed Spain to rule the whole of Central and South America, except for Brazil. Spanish is still spoken in Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia, Belize, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Gibraltar, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela.
5. Russian – 12 countries
Russia used to dominate the old Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991. The countries that made it up thereafter declared their independence. Still, Russian can be spoken and understood in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Russian is the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages and is considered the largest native language in Europe.
6. Portuguese – 11 countries
Portugal was once a great power in the old world, along with Spain. It went on an exploration binge in the name of the Roman Catholic faith. The territories it captured absorbed the language of its colonizers. Until 1999, Macau, which is deep in the heart of Asia, was a Portuguese colony. Up to now, Portuguese is spoken widely in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe, Goa, Daman and even Diu in India.
7. German – 7 countries
Germany is located in the heart of Europe. Its central location, along with its economic might and its former military glory, means that they were able to spread its wings over other countries in the area. And even up to now, the German language is still widely spoken in countries like Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland. The South Tyrol area in Italy also speaks German. There is also a community in Belgium that still speaks the language.
8. Italian – 6 countries
The Italians have a beautiful language, and it is spoken even outside its native Italy. The Vatican City, being a state located inside Rome, obviously speaks the language as well. Other countries that can speak and understand Italian are San Marino and Switzerland. The former Yugoslavia states of Croatia and Slovenia have areas that also speak Italian. These are the Istria County in Croatia and Slovenian Istria in Slovenia.
9. Chinese – 4 countries
In terms of number of speakers, Chinese is the most used language in the world. Having a population of over a billion will obviously jack up the number. It is also known as standard Chinese or modern standard Chinese. Its other names are Mandarin, Guoyu, modern standard Mandarin and Putonghua. At the risk of stating the obvious, the language is widely spoken in the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China, or what is more commonly known as Taiwan. It is also one of the four official languages of Singapore. Chinese is also spoken and understood in the Wa State in Myanmar.
10. Dutch – 3 countries
Dutch is a West Germanic language that is spoken by most of the population in the Netherlands. It is also used by around 60 percent of the population of neighboring Belgium and the former Dutch colony of Suriname in South America. The three countries actually form the Dutch Language Union. Dutch is also spoken in the Caribbean, being widely used in countries like Aruba, Curacao and Saint Maarten. The language of South Africa called Afrikaans is considered a daughter language of Dutch, and they are mutually intelligible to each other. There are also parts of Indonesia that still used the language, as Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony as well.