Compiling a ranking of the most spoken languages in the world it is not an easy task as it is practically impossible to come to know precisely the number of the people speaking a specific language and to make a difference between language and dialect.
Data can be subject to change accordingly with the entity that it is collecting the numbers creating a significant discrepancy among them.
Having said that 2018 rank edited by Ethnologue – SIL International official issue – analyzes thousands of languages all over the world by taking in consideration the number of speakers, regional distribution, dialects and linguistic affiliation. The outcome brings a nice surprise as matter of fact following English, Spanish and Mandarin Italian is the forth language studied before French.
In a reinforced study of 2014-2015 when at that time studying of Italian language boomed from counting 1.7 million students – 2013/2014 – up to more than 2 million the following two-year period. Italian language is still at fourth place in academic year 2016/2017 with 2.145.093 students reached in 115 countries throughout the Italian Institute of Culture network.
Zooming in the European Union for 97.3% of secondary school students English is integrated in the school programs comprehensively. Accordingly with an EU study of 2017 French scores second place among the most studied foreign languages followed by German; this last one chosen by 23.1% of the European students then Spanish, Russian and finally Italian.
A different scenario is set in Italy where after English it is French who occupies the second place – 72.3% – then Spanish and German. However Spanish language is acquiring more popularity and becoming the second foreign language instead of French. On the other hand in university environment is noticeable the increase in learning Mandarin and Arabic.
Globally English remains stable the most spoken language counting one billion and 109 million people total 17% of the world population; in second place there is Mandarin spoken by one billion and 107 million people total 15% of word population, third place for Hindi-Urdu spoken by 697.4 million people. Completing the ranking are Spanish – 512.9 million speakers – Arabic – 422 millions – French – 284.9 people – Bahasa, Russian, Bengali and Portuguese. Italian is placed at 21st counting 67 million speakers and with an interesting record: thanks to the emigration is the widest mother tongue language spoken in 26 countries in the world.
Lastly as for the mother tongue speakers the ranking changes; the top is taken by Mandarin – 908.7 million of speakers – in succession Spanish – 442.3 m – English with 378.2 m, then Hindi-Urdu, Bengali, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Javanese and Wu Chinese.