Is Spanish the most spoken language in the world?

Short answer: no.

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world by native speakers. The first is Chinese, with almost 1.2 billion speakers. That’s about  a sixth of the world’s population. Hindu is almost on par with Spanish, depending on the source.

In terms of total speakers - native plus second and third language speakers - the most spoken language is still Chinese. English comes second with 983 million speakers spread across the globe. However, the number of English speakers is changing rapidly, which means it might catch up with Chinese in just a few decades. That would put Spanish in a comfortable third place, again on par with Hindu.  

Most people are surprised to hear that Spanish actually has more native speakers than English. But it is easy to understand why. While English speaking countries are spread throughout the seven continents, Spanish takes up the most part of a single one: the Americas. While English is the official language of several of the world’s leading economies, Spanish-speaking countries in Central and South America are not developed economies.

As a result, English has been taught throughout the world. It’s the most studied foreign language in every country on Earth. French takes second place, even though its international prestige and acclaim are nowhere near the status it enjoyed during the first 60 years of the 20th century. Spanish is, again, probably the third on this list, but the number of second and third language speakers is on the rise.

Spanish is already the most studied foreign language in the United States, and is increasingly desired by employers. If the numbers continue to rise, it will probably become a popular choice throughout other areas of the world. Together, Spanish-speaking countries comprise a powerful geographical bloc of population and natural resources. Because of this bloc-like capacity, anyone who wants to join in will need to follow the number one rule: speak Spanish.Read more about this in our article Do you need to learn Spanish to do business in South America?.