The 25 Most Influential Languages in the World

If any of you have ever tried learning a foreign language you know that the hardest step is often the first – choosing which one. There are over 6,000 languages in use today and roughly 30% are spoken by 1,000 people or less. So, to make your job easier, in this list we are ranking the 25 most influential languages in the world. Keep in mind, however, that some languages with relatively few speakers (like Italian) will outrank languages with hundreds of millions of speakers (like Bengali). This is because the rankings are not just done according to how many people speak the language. Of course this is taken into consideration but so is how many people speak it as a second language, its impact on global commerce and trade, and its lingua franca status around the world.

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15

Italian

Italian

In the European Union it has 65 million speakers but if you count the numerous regions abroad where it is spoken as a second language then the number gets closer to 90 million. Of note, it is the official language of the Vatican and carries considerable weight in the worlds of music (particularly opera), international sports, and design/fashion.

14

Tamil

Tamil

Spoken primarily in several southern Indian states, Tamil also holds official language status in Sri Lanka and Singapore. It is one the oldest languages still in use today and has around 80 million total speakers.

13

Swahili

Swahili

Used extensively along the east coast of Africa as the language of trade, Swahili has upwards of 100 million speakers (only a small portion are native) and is the official language of several countries. It’s influence is steadily growing and many major international news outlets now feature Swahili language broadcasts.

12

Farsi (Persian)

Farsi (Persian)

With over a hundred million speakers, Farsi holds official status in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan and has a long history of being regarded as a “prestigious cultural language” throughout Central Asia.

11

Malay

Malay

In Malaysia its known as Malaysian while in Indonesia it is known as Indonesian. Although the nomenclature can get a bit confusing, Malay as a whole is spoken in numerous countries throughout the region accounting for hundreds of millions of speakers.

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