Our list starts off with the Indonesian language, which has 199 million speakers. Indonesia has the largest economy in Southeast Asia. The country also boasts the #15 economy in the world overall. Besides Indonesia, the language of Indonesian is also spoken in East Timor (also known as Timor Leste), a nation that’s hoping for an oil boom.
Fun Facts About Indonesian
Even though the language may look super intimidating, the words are easy to pronounce. In addition to that, Indonesian is considered one of the most polite languages. That’s not surprising, because Indonesians are known for their politeness.
Next up is Portuguese. There are about 232 million native speakers of this language, and around 70 million people speak Portuguese as a second language.
Besides Portugal and Brazil, Portuguese is also spoken in:
- Guinea Bissau
- São Tomé
- Cape Verde
Fun Facts About Portuguese
Portuguese is actually highly influenced by Arabic and contains some words like saudade (nostalgic or melancholy longing) that can’t be translated directly to English.
Russian has around 154 million native speakers. The country of Russia is important to the global economy because of its energy exports. It’s the #1 producer of crude oil in the world and the #2 producer of dry natural gas.
Besides Russia, the language of Russian is mainly spoken in:
Fun Facts About Russian
The most popular Russian word adopted by English speakers is probably vodka. However, Russia also has words that can’t be directly translated into English. One such word is Pochemuchka. According to Language Insight, the word refers to someone who asks too many questions.
You may be surprised to know that Bengali is the seventh-most-spoken language in the world. It has 265 million native speakers. Bengali is primarily spoken in Bangladesh, whose economy is starting to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, and India, which has the world’s sixth-largest economy.
If you’re interested in working in one of those countries, or if your company is seeking Bengali speakers, students at some colleges in the U.S. have the option of taking Bengali language courses and even earning a degree. For example, the University of Texas has many Bengali courses.
Fun Facts About Bengali
The history of the Bengali Language Movement is a fascinating one. The movement is celebrated by a national holiday in Bangladesh on February 21.
This language has 274 million native speakers. Arabic is mostly spoken in African countries and Middle Eastern countries such as:
- Saudi Arabia
Arabic is consistently ranked as one of the top languages for business and to learn for career advancement.
Fun Facts About Arabic
Words like coffee, kebab, and hummus have Arabic origin. And did you know that Arabic has over 14 words that describe love?
French is a popular second language in American high schools and the third-most-studied language in the world. All those students of French should find their second language very useful. French is spoken by 280 million people worldwide. And top brands like Peugeot, Renault, Christian Dior, and L’Oreal are based in France.
Besides France, countries where French is widely spoken, include:
- Ivory Coast
Fun Facts About French
English words like camouflage, money, and jury all have French origins. French also has many “false friends” — words that resemble a word in English, but don’t mean the same thing. For example, un coin (corner) and sale (dirty).
Spanish is also a popular foreign language choice in high school and is spoken as a second language by millions of people. It is the fourth-most-spoken language in the world with 534 million speakers. Spanish is also a great language to learn to make yourself more employable.
Spanish is spoken widely in:
- The Caribbean (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico)
- El Salvador
- Costa Rica
Fun Facts About Spanish
Spanish isn’t spoken exactly the same way in all of those countries. Check out our guide to Spanish dialects in Latin America and Spain.
Hindi has 615 million speakers in more than 10 countries. Hindi is mainly spoken in India, which is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and Nepal. However, there are 649,000 Hindi speakers in the United States. The U.S. has the third-largest group of Hindi speakers in the world. According to World Atlas, Hindi speakers can also be found in many other countries as well, such as:
- Trinidad and Tobago
- South Africa
Fun Facts About Hindi
We bet you didn’t know that you know some Hindi too. If the words shampoo, bungalow, and bandana sound familiar, then congratulations — you know some Hindi words.
With over 1.1 billion native speakers, Mandarin is the second-most-spoken language in the world. If you choose to learn this language, saying you’ll have plenty of people to talk to is an understatement. Learning Mandarin should also boost your career. It has been ranked as the second-most-useful language for business.
Qiu Gui Su, a Chinese language expert, says that Mandarin is spoken in:
- Mainland China
Mandarin is also sometimes spoken in Chinatowns around the world, such as those in San Francisco in the United States and Liverpool in England.
Fun Facts About Mandarin
Mandarin is all about tones. The same syllable can be pronounced in different ways. And if you use the wrong tone, you can end up saying a very different word than the one you intended (“horse” instead of “mother,” for example).
If you’re reading this, we’re going to assume you’re an English speaker. That makes you a speaker of the most spoken language in the world. English is spoken by 1.35 billion people, and it’s a global lingua franca for business.
English is the dominant language in a long list of countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- St. Lucia
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
However, if you’re not fluent in English, there is no need to stress. Almost a billion people in the world learned English later in life.
Fun Facts About English
There are roughly 30 major dialects of English in the U.S.
So an American might run into a convenience store to “grab a soda” or “grab a pop.” They might say they’re going to “pahk the cah,” or they’re going to “park the car.” They might be “fixin’ to do” something or “about to do” it.
Need to learn one of these languages for work?
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*This list changes from time to time.