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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5

Mandarin

Mandarin

There are two reasons that Mandarin is #5 on this list. First, it has close to a billion native speakers, which is almost three times as much as any other language. The truth is, however, that it really isn’t spoken anywhere beyond Southeast Asia other than in Taiwan or Chinese communities in other parts of the world. So, although at present it is not very influential in a global sense, due to a robust economy it very well may begin to flex its muscles in the near future.

4

Arabic

Arabic

Apart from English and French, Arabic is arguably the most international language largely due to its position as the language of Islam. It can be hard to quantify the exact number of speakers however, because modern standard Arabic, although spoken as a second language by hundreds of million people around the globe, can be very different from the dialects spoken in the roughly twenty countries where it is used as the primary language.


3

Spanish

Spanish

Although no where near English in terms of global influence, Spanish is rapidly gaining on French. It has almost 400 million native speakers, is the lingua franca of close to twenty countries, and is spoken all over the world as a second language. Also, as Latin America comes into its own on the world stage Spanish will inevitably gain influence.

2

French

French

Although it has lost considerable ground to English over the course of the last century, French is still the second most influential language in the world. With official language status in 25 countries it is the most popular lingua franca after English and is used by many international groups and organizations.


1

English

English

Didn’t see this one coming did you? Okay, maybe you did. Although it only has about 500 million native speakers there are almost 2 billion people in the world that communicate in English on a regular basis. And can you guess where most of those English speakers live? Hint – the same country whose primary language is #5

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