What is the most spoken language?

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English is the largest language in the world, if you count both native and non-native speakers. If you count only native speakers, Mandarin Chinese is the largest.


Mandarin Chinese is the largest language in the world when counting only first language (native) speakers. This is due to the significant population of China.

We consider Mandarin to be largest of the Chinese macrolanguage, a grouping of thirteen languages all considered “Chinese” due to a shared writing system and literature. Other well-known examples include Wu and Cantonese.


When factoring in second-, third-, and higher language speakers, English is the largest language in the world. This is due first to the colonial influence of the British Empire, but later to the spread of American culture.

Mandarin is concentrated, while English is spread out.

Because Mandarin's size is primarily due to native speakers, it is not surprising to see it concentrated in fewer countries – primarily in Asia – that have the most first-language speakers. English has more non-native speakers, and so can be found in far more countries, particularly in Africa. English is spoken in 146 countries, a stark difference to Mandarin’s 29.

To get a deeper view of each language, see our interactive maps for both Mandarin and English.

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