The Favorite Languages Of The World Ranked and Explained


Languages are the way we interreact and communicate with each other, yet not all of them are seen the same. There are Languages that are used exponentially more than others, while some are just engrained into one particular society. As such how do we find our favorites, or what are the favorite languages of the world?

Normally the top 3 favorite languages of the world are English, Spanish, and Chinese. There are countless causes why people have a particular favorite language, some are due to religion, travel, and business. However those with the largest speaking populations are usually the most popular.

There isn’t one definitive answer when it comes to the question what is the world’s favorite languages. Instead there are many different favorites, and it really has to do with why you want to learn a language. So, how can you find your favorite language? Read on to find out!

Is There One Favorite Language Spoken In The World?

The world is home to all types of people, all speaking many different languages. Yet, not all languages are treated the same by us. Clearly certain languages are preferred, or at least spoken by more people. With these disparities, is there one clear “king” among languages? Is there one favorite language spoken in the world?

No language is a clear favorite throughout the world. Instead there are many different languages all with varying degrees of popularity. Languages can have multiple ways of being a favorite, like helping with travel, business, or religious aspects. All of this can’t be fulfilled by one language.

One language can’t meet the demands of everyone in the world due to there being many different reasons why we learn languages in the first place. This is why there are so many unique languages in the world, because they fit people’s needs where they are.

An important aspect on why there are such a magnitude of different languages in the world, is that the cultural component naturally makes it so. When a society becomes associated with a particular language, it adds to the societies’ history and way of life. Thus making that language bound to them, and them to that language.

Though some like the concept of a global language, it is not feasible because of the basis why people most learn languages. However there can be common languages used by many to help communicate, and English is generally considered to be the de-facto choice in this regard.

The World’s Favorite Languages By Category

We know there are many reasons why you might learn a language. Followed by how there is no one size fits all language. So, if the reasoning of language learning is mainly subjective, then how can know the world’s favorite languages?

Starting by understanding the main purposes of learning any specific language, we can learn our preferred language. Many purposes fall along the same lines:

  • religious
  • travel
  • prevalence in one’s own country
  • education
  • business

So, with all that in mind, what are the world’s most favorite languages?

World’s Favorite Religious Languages

One of the less thought of reasons for preferring any language, is the religious side. Along this train of thought, what are the world’s favorites religious languages?

With the major religions today; Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew are some of the main choices in this respect.

Latin

This is the Latin Rosary recited by millions around the world in the Catholic faith daily.

In the Catholic Church, Latin is a sacred language commonly referred to as the “language of the Church”. The official bible of the Church, and the first one complied, is the Latin Vulgate. As the name implies, it was a translation into Latin from the original texts of the Old and New testament.

In the Latin Vulgate, ecclesiastical Latin was used rather than classical Latin. The main difference being the pronunciation between the two. Ecclesiastical Latin is what the Catholic Church uses for their sacramental rites.

Faithful members of the Church choose to study this Latin so that then can dive even deeper in their religion. Though many see it as a ‘dead’ language, all over the world today there are Masses celebrated in Latin on Sundays and sometimes daily.

Arabic

The Arabic language is held in esteem in Islamic tradition. This is due to the Koran (Islam’s holy book) being written originally in that language. Though Arabic has changed since the 600 A.D., around the time when the Koran was written, it is still treated as a privileged language.

Since to a Muslim, the prophet Muhammad was the perfect example of a man, and he said Arabic was the best language, then it stands to reason it is highly esteemed today. So, for those who are Muslim that don’t know Arabic, learning the language can help them get closer to their religion.

Hebrew

Modern Hebrew is different from what the ancient Jews spoke two thousand years ago. However some religious Jews like to learn the language as an act of getting closer to their religion and heritage.

Along side modern Hebrew some might study ancient Hebrew with a religious intent. Along the same line of reasoning Catholics use to study Latin, so too Jews might take a interest in studying Hebrew.

The World’s Favorite Travel Languages

A very popular reason for learning a language, and for determining your own favorite language, is related to traveling. Tourism is a common practice for many and a common motivator for language learning. So, if someone would choose their favorite language based on if it can help them travel, then what language would they pick?

All of the following numbers in relation to tourism in this part of the article are provided by this ranking from the World Tourism Organization.

French

There are many countries that are beloved by tourists, yet France is clearly head and shoulders above the rest with 89 million of them coming to the country every year.

Paris alone is one of the most visited cities in the entire world. Due to it’s fame, the country is commonly considered to be the most beautiful as well.

Since the country is obviously looked upon as being the go-to choice for tourists, the French language can be great choice for aspiring world travelers.

For those who love to travel, especially in Europe, knowing the language of the most visited country can be both awesome (hopefully I didn’t bore you with the technical term) and beneficial.

This is besides the fact that many like the sound of French itself, apart from the clear travel benefits of learning the language.

Spanish

Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world with 83 million, right behind France’s 89 million. The second most visited country in the world is considered by many to be beautiful country and nearly always having sunshine.

This makes it a huge tourist trap because of the numerous incredible beaches, resorts, historical landmarks. There are even islands off its coasts where the economies are entirely based on tourism. (ex. Majorca)

Along with many countries in South America, Spain predominately speaks Spanish. This means the Spanish language is a great option for any frequent tourist who plans on visiting those regions often.

Unlike French, Spanish can be used in more countries because the language as a whole is used more globally.

English

The United States of America receives around 80 million tourists a year, making it the third most visited country in the world. It goes without saying that the USA is commonly visited by tourists due to the sheer amount of well-known and beloved tourist destinations in the country.

Along with the USA, the United Kingdom has 36 million tourists a year. This would make it the tenth most visited tourist destination.

Other countries have high levels of English, even if they are not native English speakers like the USA or the UK. Norway for example, and the other Scandinavia countries, all have English as a common second language.

All this goes to show that English is a very viable option for those who love to travel because English has a presence in many popular tourists locations.

If interested in all things language learning, then read some of my other articles!

The Favorite Languages By Number Of Speakers

Another way to judge what are the world’s favorite languages are, is to consider what are the languages with the largest speaking populations. The language that are spoken by the most people isn’t a guaranteed way of determining if a language is a “favorite”, though it is close.

All of the following numbers in relation to a particular language’s number of speakers is provided by Ethnologue. Keep in mind that numbers of such magnitude are more approximations rather than precise statistics.

So, what are the favorite languages by number of speakers?

English

English, as is stated from Ethnologue (link above), has around 1.348 billion speakers worldwide. This number includes both native and non-native speakers.

The exact numbers are as follows:

  • 369.9 million native speakers
  • 978.2 million non-native speakers

Clearly from seeing these numbers one comes to the realization of the sheer size and popularity English has throughout the world. The influence English is unquestionable, and as such this leaves many to learn this language. Or, they consider English to be their favorite language.

Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin is one dialect of Chinese, and is by far the most popular. It has close to 1.120 billion speakers. However unlike English, the vast majority of it’s speakers are those who speak it natively.

The numbers are:

  • 921.2 million native speakers
  • 198.7 million non-native speakers

The contrast between Mandarin Chinese and English is actually pretty interesting, since more people speak English as second language than those who speak Mandarin Chinese as a first language.

With Mandarin Chinese spoken by mainly native speakers, who are mostly in China, it has naturally become engrailed into Chinese society. This means that if someone learns Mandarin Chinese, then essentially they’re also learning the Chinese culture.

All this is opposite to a language like English, where their are several different cultures that speak it both natively and especially as a second language.

Spanish

Spanish is often consider one of the most spoken languages in the world, and for good reason, since approximately 543 million speak it world wide. As it is with a lot of languages, more people speak Spanish natively than as a second language.

If distinguishing between native and non-native speakers, we are left with the numbers:

  • 471.4 million native speakers
  • 71.5 million non-native speakers

Though admittedly less people speak Spanish than English or Mandarin Chinese, compared to all of the other languages worldwide, it is still widely spoken.

Spanish is mainly spoken in Spain and in South America, so if you like traveling to those regions then Spanish is a great language to learn.

World’s Most Favored Cultural Languages

Choosing a favorite language due to cultural reasons usually is due to one of two things: if your born in that culture or have a general affinity towards it. The latter is way more subjective, and as such any language can in theory become someone’s favorite.

By subjective, what I mean is that it has to due with more personal preference, rather than something concrete or objective. This means that any language can necessarily be someone’s favorite, if looking at it from a cultural perspective.

If any language can fit the bill, then:

  • Japanese
  • Italian
  • English
  • Korean
  • Spanish
  • French
  • German
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • etc..

can all be someone’s favorite!

More nationalistic populaces of countries will generally choose their first language as their favorite, and this can be due to the love of one’s own country. Then in turn this means they choose that language as their favorite because of the cultural aspect.

Educational Favorite Languages

There are all sorts of reasons why we learn languages, and why we choose our “favorites”. One major consideration, and usually the only consideration, we make when learning a language is if it can help us. Along this line of reasoning, then whether or not a language can help you with your education is a more than reasonable thing to consider.

If someone was looking for a language to help them in their academic life then what language should they choose?

English

There are many languages in our world, but few are so global as the English language. It pervades many different countries through their media, entertainment, and commerce. English does this more than most other languages. is due to how English has become the language of Math and Science, or the language of higher education.

The point is made apparent in the this research provided by the Dalian University of Foreign Languages, China. Where it discusses the increasing levels of English in Chinese universities. Even though China is a very nationalistic country, it still has English in it’s higher education due to its prominence around the world.

World’s Most Important Languages For Business And Politics

Along with the aforementioned educational purposes for learning a language, the business (and in turn political) aspects of language learning is just as important. The motivation of economical gain is a great incentive, and a lot of the time the most common, for learning languages in general.

What languages would benefit a person in regards to business and politics?

English

English is clearly one of the most spoken languages across the world. It dominates the globe from entertainment, media, to education. English is prevalent throughout many different countries.

In an article published from the Radboud University, Netherlands, it describes English as the “lingua franca” of the world. Particularly in the context of international business dealings. This pretty much sums up the influence that English has across the globe.

lingua francaany of various languages used as common or commercial tongues among peoples of diverse speech. (this definition can be found at Merriam-Webster.com)

English is a international language used by many as a “common tongue”. For business dealings to the movies we watch, English plays a significant role.

How To Know What Your Favorite Languages Are

Since we discussed all the main ways you can have a language as your favorite, it’s probably pretty obvious now that there are ton of reasons to have a favorite language. Yet, for any aspiring language learner, how can you find your own favorite language?

To determine your favorite language, you must realize why you want to learn a language in the first place. If looking for job opportunities, you will favor different languages than those who travel often. So, having a favorite language is a more subjective line of reasoning.

Attempting to find your favorite language takes a little honesty on your part, since you need to know what is you’re trying to achieve by learning a language.

  • If you’re wanting travel, then languages like English could be good in places like the Scandinavian countries. Many learn French because they like traveling to France.
  • Certain cultures lead some to favor a language. For instance, some people really like the Japanese culture and Anime. As such, they try to learn their language. Most don’t go through with it however because Japanese is so hard to learn.

Their are all sorts of reasons to learn a language, and to have a favorite language, so it really does depend on a specific person’s desires to determine what they might consider their favorite language.

The Final Talking Point On Favorite Languages…

How someone finds their favorite language is dependent on their own desires. Their is no end to the reasons why you might learn and therefore favor a particular language. It is up to one’s own judgment in determining why they wish to learn a language, and in turn lead them to find their favorite.

For more articles about languages and language learning, read some of my others!

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a licensed teacher for elementary through high school in 3 states. She is a former adjunct professor at the undergraduate level and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. She was a mentor for many education interns, has taught and coordinated professional development for teachers and educators, and professionally tutored in a multitude of subjects.

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