We're Living in a Multilingual World

We're Living in a Multilingual World | One Hour Translation

The most spoken language on earth is Chinese, with almost 1.2 million people speaking Chinese worldwide.

In the South China Morning Post recently, an infomercial showed the languages that are most spoken in the world, including their number of speakers. What it showed was that, on a planet that’s inhabited by 7 billion people, on a daily basis there are more than 7,000 languages spoken. In addition, 23 of these languages are spoken by more than half of the entire population of the world.

The most spoken language on earth is Chinese, with almost 1.2 million people speaking Chinese worldwide. Most speakers are from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Malaysia. English is the second most spoken language, with 335 million speakers worldwide – this figure is comprised of 225 million speakers in the United States, 55.6 million speakers in the United Kingdom, and 19.4 million people in Canada speaking English. There are many smaller populations of English speakers, such as in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Singapore, Ireland, Sierra Leone, Trinidad and Tobago, and some others. In addition, English is the most learned language in the world, with more than 1,500 million people currently learning the language.

Because there are so many languages in our world, we shouldn’t be surprised that some of these countries are not adamant about sticking to just one language, but rather encourage multilingualism. There are many reasons behind this, and one could well be the country’s history with colonists, or even geographic approximation to other countries.

  • Aruba is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and they have Dutch as their official language. Dutch is taught in most schools, in addition to English and Spanish. However, Aruba’s native language is a Creole language known as Papiamento, so this means that many Arubans are fluent in four different languages.
  • Then we have Luxembourg, which borders France and Germany: French and German are their official languages. However, many locals speak Luxembourgish. In addition, English is taught in schools as a compulsory subject, so this means that students in Luxembourg are fluent in at least four languages.
  • Possibly the most multilingual country in the world is South Africa, because it has 11 official languages. The main language used by the government and media is English, yet less than 10% of the population of South Africa speak English as their first language. Zulu and Xhosa are two of the more prominent languages of South Africa.

It’s always a huge advantage for children to be raised in multilingual homes, however, speaking more than one language doesn’t automatically make you a translator. But it’s certainly a great start!

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