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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.
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.
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.
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.
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