5. Russian

Russian flagWith a surface of 17 million square kilometers, it s not surprising that Russia dominates in the field of languages too. Although not as popular as English or Spanish, nor as populated and China and India, the Russian language still estimates around 277 million speakers. It is the official language in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and it is unofficially spoken in 31 other countries, including Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia and Estonia. In addition to those, Russian is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, along with Chinese, English, Arabic, French and Spanish.

Did you know?

  • Just like the English language took over the skies, the Russian language has been named the international language of space. Training to become an astronaut also includes a visit in Moscow in order to get you familiar with the language.
  • There are nearly 200.000 words in the Russian language, but only 2.500 of them are frequently used in written and oral speech.
  • After the word “tovarisch” has been declared unusable in speech, Russians haven`t been able to come up with other special words to address each other. Using the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” is considered somewhat unnatural, while simply using the term “man/woman” is considered rude.

4. Spanish

Spanish flagWith an empire rivaling that of the British, Spain has spread its language in all corners of the new world, being the official language of 21 countries and spoken in another additional 44 countries. With a number close to 392 million speakers, Spanish is prominent in both the Americas, as well as in Europe. Setting aside the kids who study it in high school, the language is spoken in the majority of South and Central American countries, not to mention Spain and the U.S.

Did you know?

  • Spanish was the diplomatic language used worldwide up to the 18th century.
  • Although Spanish initially emerged in the Iberian Peninsula as a descendant of Latin, it is currently spoken by almost 400 million people with a growing trend that will reach 600 million speakers by 2050.
  • Spanish is one of the most phonetic languages. If you know how a word is spelled, you will also be able to pronounce it. However, the reverse is not true.
  • With over 150 million users, Spanish is the third most used language online and the second most used on Facebook, after English.

3. Hindustani

Indian flagThe Hindustani language and its two registers, Hindi and Urdu, is a language spoken by almost 498 million people, in India and Pakistan. Given the fact that it`s not as spread across the globe as other languages that come to your mind, you might feel a bit surprised by the number of speakers. What really makes a difference is, of course, India`s crowded growing population. While many predict that India will surpass China in matters of population, the prominence of the English language spoken there is what prevents Hindustani from becoming the most popular language in the world.

Despite it being a distant relative of English, they don`t have that much in common. However, learning to speak Hindustani might prove easier than you`d expect, the language being easy to pronounce and enunciate. The only thing that will take you time is probably the alphabet.

Did you know?

  • The Hindustani language took birth when the cultural practices and the linguistic resemblance led to the merger of the Hindi and Urdu dialects and soon became the lingua franca of most of India even before its freedom.
  • The language has roots in the Sanskrit language, dating back to 5.000 BC.
  • Some of the words we grew accustomed to using actually have Hindi origins, for example: karma, yoga, cheetah, thug, etc.
  • Hindi and Urdu are basically identical; the only difference consisting of the writing method used. Hindi used the Devanagari script, whereas Urdu uses the Persian script.

2. English

English flagThe Internet gives the impression that the English language has pretty much taken over the world, but surprisingly, when the numbers were in, it came out as second, estimating only 508 million speakers. Despite losing to Chinese, English could still be considered the higher linguistic power, being the official language of more countries than any other language.

Being widely dispersed throughout the world, English is the official language of almost 60 countries and it is spoken in over 100 other states, most renown being the U.K. and the U.S.,  Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and even Hong Kong. English has been universally declared by scholars  the world`s “most influential language.”

Did you know?

  • English has been named the official language of the skies. All pilots, regardless of their origins, identify themselves in English when on international flights.
  • The English language expands with one new word every two hours, that is roughly 4.000 words a year.
  • The famous “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is not the longest word in English. The longest is “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis” used to name a type of lung disease.
  • William Shakespeare is said to have invented almost half the English words that we speak today. While this approximation might be a bit exaggerated, part of it is true. Out of all his work – plays, sonnets and poems – which sums up to 17.677 words, Shakespeare is said to have invented 1.700 of them.

1. Chinese

Chinese FlagHaving outnumbered English by a 2 to 1 ratio, the most widely spoken language in the world is Chinese, counting well over 1 billion speakers and patronizing over 10 dialects, out of which the most important is the Mandarin, also known as Standard Chinese. Although as an official language it is concentrated in a limited territory, most important countries being China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, it has far exceeded the boundaries of Asian land. Chinese speakers can now be found throughout the globe, prior in Indonesia, Russia, the United States and Canada.

However, don`t let the number of followers lull you into thinking that learning Chinese is a piece of cake. The difficulty of this languages consists in the pronunciation of the words, each of them having four different tones that are hard for a beginner to distinguish. But if one billion people can do it, so can you.

Did you know?

  • Mandarin Chinese uses a system of symbols, instead of an alphabet. These symbols, known as Chinese characters represents the oldest writing system in the world.
  • There are well over 100.000 characters recorded in the most advanced dictionaries, but luckily for us only 2.500 of them are used in everyday written language.
  • Studying Mandarin Chinese might be easier than you expected. Chinese grammar is a piece of cake when compared to English or French grammar. There is no need to worry over conjugating or mastering verb tenses, distinguishing between singular and plural or to pay careful attention to gender-specific nouns.

A bit of Chinese is good for the brain. Studies recently discovered that people who speak Chinese use both their temporal lobes to distinguish between words and intonations, as opposed to English speakers who only use their left side.

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