It's truly amazing how varied we are as a language-speaking civilization. Ever since our ancestors turned grunts and hoots into words and phrases, humans have devised countless languages. Many have long faded into history, but thousands survive to this day.
Currently, over 7,100 languages are spoken on our planet. However, the vast majority of them are only spoken by a precious few people. In fact, a mere 23 languages have proven widespread enough to record at least 50 million native speakers.
Here, thanks to data from the South China Morning Post, are some interesting facts about the top 23 languages in the world!
The Top 23 Languages On Earth
It would be silly to speak of the top 23 languages in the world and not actually say what they are. So here are, as of this writing, the only 23 languages on Earth that can boast more than 50 million native speakers:
Chinese, English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Persian, German, Russian, Malay, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish, Lahnda, Tamil, Urdu, Korean, Hindi, Bengali, Japanese, Vietnamese, Telugu, and Marathi.
Chances are you speak at least one of these languages fluently. As for the others, don't worry. The Jarvisen smart language translator device understands an incredible 22 of these languages and can translate them perfectly for you. Jarvisen also expertly translates 38 other languages, for when communicating with somebody whose native language is a little more esoteric.
As for the one top language that Jarvisen as yet to master: worry not. We're working on nailing Lahnda and including that language's speakers in the translation party as well.
Only Three Languages Rule At Least 50 Countries
With 7,100 languages and over 200 countries, you're bound to find some overlap. Shockingly, there's a little less linguistic overlap then you may think.
Out of all those languages, a mere three are legitimately spoken as primary languages in at least 50 countries. Those languages?
English, Arabic, and French.
Nail those three languages and you'll find communicating with people around the world to be much easier.
But why? What is it about those three languages that proved so popular they cross so many international borders? The answer is almost certainly colonization and imperial warfare.
There's no better way (sadly) to spread your language on a massive basis than to invade other lands and forcefully integrate the locals into speaking how you speak. So between French conquests, the British Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, these languages have spread far and wide for the past several hundred years.
Over Half The Planet Speaks These 23 Languages
Countries are all well and good, but what about the people inside the countries? Plenty of countries speak multiple primary languages, which means quite a few people should be speaking a great number of languages, right?
As it turns out, not really. There are roughly 7.5 billion people on this planet, and 4.1 billion of them speak at least one of the top 23 languages primarily.
That means that in a world with 7,100 languages and billions of people speaking them, well over half those people have settled on a mere handful of popular languages as their tongue of choice.
This is just one more reason why, when learning a language or purchasing a language translator device like Jarvisen, you should keep these 23 languages in front of your mind. The vast majority of the world prefers to speak this tiny percentage of its dialects.
Chinese Is A Gigantic Macrolanguage
Chinese is the most spoken language in the world by a long shot -- over 1.2 billion people speak Chinese primarily. In second place is English, with around 380 million primary speakers.
That said, not everyone who speaks Chinese speak the same Chinese. Chinese is actually a macro language with multiple spoken dialectical groups that cover over 200 different dialects! In many cases, these dialects are completely unique to each other. So just because you know a couple of different ways to speak Chinese, that doesn't mean you'll be able to effectively communicate with everyone else who speaks Chinese.
That said, if you want to play the odds, learning Mandarin and Cantonese will allow you to communicate with the vast majority of Chinese speakers. Luckily, Jarvisen masterfully translates both of these dialects for you. This handy little device thinks of everything!
French Might Take Over The World
French is one of the top five languages on Earth, but there's a good possibility that within the next couple of decades, it could jump to the top two or even the top spot altogether.
According to a study by Natixis Bank, at least 26 African countries are poised to double in population in the coming years. Thanks to France's past colonization of the continent, many of these countries primarily speak French.
Thus, it's highly possible this growth could make French among the world's most popular languages by 2050, with roughly 750 million speakers.
That alone would skyrocket it above English on the list of most spoken languages. What's more, depending on China's future growth (or lack thereof), French may well eclipse Mandarin as the #1 language on Earth.
So set your Jarvisen to French and get ready to join the future!