https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia

Most spoken languages

0liwia
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Do you know what are the most spoken languages in the World?

Here are graphs I made based on data I've found:

alt text - Source: US census 2011

alt text - Source: European Commission 2012 barometer

alt text - Source: http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/most_spoken_languages.htm These figures focus on L1 and L2 users alt text - Source: Wikipedia figures These figures include all estimated speakers (including low proficiency)

Update: This data is quite hard to gather, and since the first graph triggered some controversy, I updated it with a second graph based on Wikipedia figures.

Does the popularity of the language affect your choice of learning it?

4 years ago

48 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/iustitia
iustitia
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To answer your question - popularity affects it I think. My language choices were mostly caused by most accessible sources of learning. So with English - tons of materials of any kind. With French and German - still so popular that I can access a lot of things for free in library or on-line. With languages like Finnish or Swedish - it gets harder. I would need to pay for course or books, because sources are there, but they are either not the best quality or the approach of learning is not convenient.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
0liwia
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You are right about the availability of the learning resources!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rewong
rewong
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This is so cool! I wish there was a section of discussion solely dedicated to infographics and visual info

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/OlegGusev

I expected to see Malay-Indonesian language here: 237 mln. people live in Indonesia (most of them know Indonesian Malay as local lingua franca), and 28 mln. live in Malaysia.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ZaimanSyahzmi
ZaimanSyahzmi
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GIVE THIS GUY SOME LINGOT.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/OldSpiceGuy
OldSpiceGuy
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Wikipedia lists English as having 360 million native speakers and 380 L2 speakers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language). Apparently 38% of Europeans that have a first language other than English say they can converse in English (per this link, http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_243_en.pdf). Plus, you have the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, several African nations, several island nations, a decent chunk of Indians, etc. Mandarin isn't too useful outside of China (not on my bucket list). Hindi isn't too useful outside India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nepal (not on my bucket list). If I were looking for useful languages, I'd start with English and Spanish. The German is just for fun - from what I hear, I could probably go to Germany knowing no German, and get by just fine.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/revdolphin
revdolphin
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2.9 million native speakers in the U.S., with only about 2/3 of them having "Mastery of English," and you think "Mandarin isn't too useful outside of China"? Even if you don't live in the U.S. (and I can understand why it may not be on your bucket list), this still seems an odd statement based on the presented data.

How do you define usefulness?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
0liwia
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The problem with "Chinese" in the US is that it includes both Mandarin and Cantonese (and over dialects), and somehow, the majority of Chinese in the US speak Cantonese, not Mandarin. So Mandarin isn't actually widely spoken in the US! (don't have the exact figures, though)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/revdolphin
revdolphin
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Thanks! I knew it was the case in my community that Cantonese was more spoken than Mandarin, but another center I worked at with a high Chinese population had more Mandarin than Cantonese, and I had assumed that my current center was more the exception than the rule. Thanks for clarifying that!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
0liwia
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_American#Language This article states Cantonese and other Yue dialects are widely spread, but that Mandarin is become prevalent lately. So maybe it will soon become the US Chinese lingua franca? It would make sense since it's now compulsory everywhere in China and HK (from what I know)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/revdolphin
revdolphin
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That seems more consistent with my experience. I have found that many people I encounter who speak Cantonese or Vietnamese as a native language also have at least some background in Mandarin.

I've never worked in Chinatown before; I'm curious which form of Chinese is prevalent there.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/OldSpiceGuy
OldSpiceGuy
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Personally, I'd define usefulness as being proportional to the number of places I could go and get by. If I go to Belgium, it would be great to know Flemish or French, but I could very easily get by with English, and probably German or Dutch. There might be 1 in 200 people there that speaks Chinese, but unless I'm at a Chinese restaurant, I'm unlikely to find that useful. The same thing is generally true in the US. One could possibly get by in the US with Spanish, but outside of Chinatown, Chinese isn't too helpful. If you know English and Spanish, you can get by OK in most of 4 continents, with pockets in the others.If you know Chinese, you can get by in China.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/OldSpiceGuy
OldSpiceGuy
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Actually make that 5 continents - if you were in Antarctica, you'd probably find that most people could speak some English, since it's currently the language of science. :D

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Susande
Susande
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"If I go to Belgium, it would be great to know Flemish or French, but I could very easily get by with English, and probably German or Dutch"

Flemish basically is to Dutch like US English is to UK English, so sometimes you can get by with less languages than you think. ;)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/slmUSA

French and English are the only 2 languages spoken on 5 of the 7 continents. Most sought-after world wide languages are English #1 and French #2. http://cdn1.matadornetwork.com/blogs/1/2015/09/languages-of-the-world-large.jpg

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/OldSpiceGuy
OldSpiceGuy
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I could see French if I was going to spend a lot of time in northern Africa. Spanish is much more useful in the Americas. Neither is very useful in Asia or Australia - French influence in the Malay peninsula is pretty weak these days. French is probably somewhat more useful than Spanish in Europe, though English blows either out of the water.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
0liwia
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The data about languages spoken in the whole World is very hard to estimate, unfortunately. I admit my data may be off for some languages, but I don't think anyone has the "right" data... Especially regarding second language -- I have met so many people saying they can speak a language, when they actually can only say a few sentences!...

As for the usefulness, it all depends on what you're planning on doing with it :-) You can indeed travel to Germany not speaking any German (though I have been in some places, such as Schwarzwald, where this isn't true), but if you're planning on doing some business it could be a plus.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/OldSpiceGuy
OldSpiceGuy
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Very true. Fortunately, one of the first things people learn is "where is the bathroom?" So at least we can get past the most urgent needs.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
0liwia
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Updated with a wider estimate!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jheavner724
jheavner724
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I like that you make it clear that, while Mandarin has far more natives and high-level speakers, English most likely has more overall (even if you count other Chinese dialects), as this can confuse people.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
0liwia
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This is why I updated the graph. It is true you can get around with basic English pretty much everywhere considering how many people speak it. But I like keeping both graphs, because "Speaking a language" is often very different from "mastering a language" or even using it every day.

Overall, I would be really interested to know how they get their figures (world figures; EU and US are surveys)...

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Trang.
Trang.
Mod
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Interesting, thanks for sharing Olivia

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jack.Elliot
Jack.Elliot
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Brilliant how about Regional perspective ... London , Chicago ,,

How plays out your Polish in the States ?

very interesting ... thank you for posting it

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
0liwia
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Polish has 0.6 million native speakers in the US. I don't have any regional data :-) But I've came across an article about the UK stating that the first most spoken foreign language in England and Wales is... Polish :-)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jack.Elliot
Jack.Elliot
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I think you may be correct but it may be German official by the census reports but in reality Polish are in the Hebrides baking bread.... so all over the wee islands as well as the mainland

och aye and a wee lingot for an impressive discussion post

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/dead_wolf

Interesting. If I may suggest an update on your figures : according to "the free encyclopedia", there are 220 millions french speakers (115 natives) in 2010 ;)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
0liwia
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I have a bit of a problem with French, actually. I've found some sources stating it is one of the top 5 most spoken languages in the world, and some giving me far smaller figures. In the end, I don't really know, so I kept this one. Are the wikipedia figures official?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/dead_wolf

Agree with you, official numbers are difficult to obtain. According to the (very...maybe too very ;) ) official "Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie" the figures are 220 millions (cf. http://www.francophonie.org/Denombrement-des-francophones.html).

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
0liwia
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Thanks for the data!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
0liwia
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Updated with a wider estimate!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/slmUSA

dead_wolf Thanks for the update. Here's an infographic that shows English #1 and French #2 most sought-after languages worldwide. http://cdn1.matadornetwork.com/blogs/1/2015/09/languages-of-the-world-large.jpg

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/s.barakat14

informative merci beacoup pour ton information :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/wangwang764

hope the Mandarin for English will begin to translate soon! and will see if I could help to translate!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/slmUSA

Popularity of a language affects its availability in our schools across the USA. Sad that many French and German programs are being replaced by Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Keep in mind that French is still the #2 most sought-after world language, English is #1. Paris, France is the #1 tourist destination in the world. Iconic symbols of France are seen worldwide. How many people want to wear a t-shirt with the Great Wall of China on it?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AbraxunsIllusion

Interesting, I thought the U.S. would have more Spanish speakers. Thanks for sharing this, 0liwia!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Bill-Roca

You would be right, there are more Spanish speakers in the US (38 million) than all the others on the first graph combined :) The part of the US where I live, which borders Mexico, has Spanish TV and radio stations and our voting ballots come in both languages.

It mentions this at the bottom of the first graph but it's not easy to notice at first glance.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
0liwia
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Yes, but I couldn't put in on the graph or all the other figures would have been to small :-) Plus I kind of figured "English and Spanish [were] obvious"...

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Erven.R

Cant believe Tagalog is there

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jcboy14

because there are many Filipino workers not just immigrants. :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/revdolphin
revdolphin
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This is great! I'd be interested in seeing links to your original sources.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/0liwia
0liwia
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You have the sources underneath the graphs. For the World figures: http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/most_spoken_languages.htm They do not mention their sources, they say they compiled different data... Apart from French, it seemed quite right to me, I didn't countercheck, I must admit

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Szab
Szab
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"Most spoken languages" I think these graphics is about the mother tongues. The most spoken language is english-as-a-second-language. And it is not 341 million, it is more than 1000 millions I think.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/revdolphin
revdolphin
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Second language data are in the world and UE graphs.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/J-Steven

0liwia, I love your graphs! What software you using to create them?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MrHuckabee

Nah, popularity isn't why I'm trying to learn German anyway. However, if I finally feel like I have a good grasp on German, I'll probably move on to learning Spanish or Mandarin. So many people in the US know Spanish (including my dad), so it would be a good skill to have. And considering Mandarin is super popular, I can only imagine all the interesting movies, TV, music, websites, and other stuff unknown to me because I do not know the language.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/chris_nairn
chris_nairn
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Thank you for this work!

4 years ago
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