Lists are fun. So here’s one that occurred to me while researching for my book. I was reading up on some of the different ethnicities I encountered in China–and then saw the numbers of Earthlings speaking their languages…
It’s a trivia contest here on New Plateaus. Step right up, and give this a try! Yesiree, you have the chance to win not money, not applause, not even recognition from friends, but you do get the chance to rack your brain a little.
Real quick: see how many of the top 10 native-spoken languages you can come up with. Native speakers means people who grew up using the language. So no, this does not include you knowing German because of 14 words you remember from high school. And here’s another hint, smarty pants: German isn’t in the top ten.
Got any ideas? Scroll down when you’re tired of racking and ready for some reading.
First, we’ll reveal the top five.
Here we go:
Okay, I’m still gonna tease ya with a hint or two:
This one is spoken primarily in Africa and the Middle East. It would also come in handy if you felt a niggling hankering to convert to Islam.
Arabic! 280 million native speakers–such as this dude:
For this one, let’s drift a little further east shall we? (And with this clue, can some of ya’ll guess it?)
Here’s a little more info: it’s the most popular language in the world’s 2nd most populous country. Oh, and it might be handy if you had another niggling hankering to convert to Hinduism–or watch some Bollywood movies.
Hindi! 295 million native speakers–including these two lovebirds:
Here’s one a little closer to home.
It’s a European language that’s a unique mixture of southern Europe’s Latin tongue and northern Europe’s Germanic ones. It’s also the most-popular language taught at American schools.
Wait for it…
Haha, trick question: )
English! 365 million native speakers–including Amish people:
This one I’m sure is the most-popular foreign language studied across U.S. high schools. It would really come in handy if you had a niggling hankering to travel south…of Texas.
Spanish! 387 million native speakers. Yes, the other European language that could did well to infuse itself into the generations who’d live in most of South and Central America, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean–like Cuba:
Last but not least.
This language did a nice job of blanketing a huge country with a huge population. It might sound funny to us, but it is fun to use once you know a few phrases. How do I know? Because I learned some–in its country of origin:
Yep, Mandarin Chinese! 935 million native speakers.
Not all lists are created equal. This one was taken from Wikipedia. Looking elsewhere I found one list flipping Hindi and Arabic around in the top five, another flipping English and Spanish, and yet another having Russian squeeze into the top 5. But no matter; we can at least be certain we got a good idea of some very popular languages, and one thing that didn’t change depending on the list was that Mandarin Chinese was #1–by far.
This isn’t the case, though, when looking at total speakers–native or not. No, this still doesn’t include you and your fluency of 14 foreign words, but it does include those who are truly bilingual. When taking that into effect, English is right up there with Chinese topping a billion.
Finally, I called this article, “10 Most…” for a reason. Here are the remaining most-popular native spoken languages:
Portuguese: 204 million (Brazil really helps out this cause.)
Bengali: 202 million (India’s other behemoth.)
Russian: 160 million (spoken all over the old Soviet Union
Japanese: 127 million (spoken all over…Japan: )
Punjabi: 96 million (Punjabi? What’s that? Yeah, I know. It happens to actually be the language that prompted this investigation. I bumped into a few of these folks in Hong Kong and wanted to know a little more about them. They hail from India and Pakistan.)
And just because I mentioned it at the top (and was the language I took in high school),
German: 92 million speakers
There you have it: )
I hope you had fun playing. If not, maybe next time we’ll tickle what you have a niggling hankering for. In fact, if you have any ideas for lists you’d like me to feature (or that you’d like to offer up yourself), let me know!
learning about the world one (or 11) mother tongues at a time,
to new plateaus,