There are 7.6 billion of people in the world. More than 2000 different languages but most of them can be categorized into 9 languages families.
Global languages or so called world languages are the most commonly used languages in the world. The modern languages as we know, in terms of number of native speakers, here are the top 4:
- Chinese: 917 million (12%)
- Hindustani: 409 million ( 5.3%)
- Spanish: 400 million ( 5.2%)
- English: 360 million ( 4.7%)
But if we include the population that acquire the language skill by learning (second or third language), we come to the following result:
- English: 1.5 billion (20%)
- Chinese: 1.3 billion (17%)
- Spanish: 550 million ( 7%)
- Hindustani: 544 million ( 7%)
5 English speakers, only 1 native
The numbers may vary from several sources, here are some rough numbers. Total English speakers represent 20% of the world. Only 5% of the people are native English speakers while the other 15% learned English as a second language. You probably know that English widely spoken in India and Singapore. But in fact, English is also used in Jamaica, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Fiji and many other places…
Speaking “global English” means you could communicate freely with people from different countries. If one way of saying doesn’t get your message across, try another way plus body language. You really don’t have to worry about learning slang and idioms because you would much more likely talk to a non-native English speaker. Even if you plan on going to a native English speaking country, in many cases native level of English will not be required. At any international company, professional working Proficiency (CEFR B2) would already be sufficient.
People speaking English with an accent and not knowing specific local expressions are fairly normal. If you speak clearly, I would say “Be proud of you accent” as you already speak more than one language and many people don’t.
Mandarin Chinese is not only used in China
Mandarin on the other hand is also very useful and it’s not only spoken in China (People’s republic of China) but also in Taiwan (Republic of China, the former China in United Nations before 1971), Malaysia, Singapore and even parts of Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia due to the large numbers of Chinese immigrants. Not to mention you can find China towns in major cities and of course Chinese restaurants everywhere. So there are just plenty of opportunities to use Chinese. And if you want to run your business in China, it is required to have a local partner. So being able to speak his/ her language would just be a tremendous help to stay on the same page and to prevent fraud. Overall, there are around 200 million Chinese learners and the popularity is still increasing especially in the west.
An interesting note about the Chinese language, there are many dialects spoken at various places (ten officially?). Chinese often have to learn Mandarin in school just so that they could understand each other fully. And believe me, there exist huge differences in the dialects people speak from region to region. Imagine north of China is a big flat area covered by grass field, without too much of a barrier in between villages so people there could understand each other more or less while in the south the dialects are much more complicated. It might sound funny but I couldn’t even understand my own grandfather.
As a Spanish learner, I don’t have a lot of experience just yet but I know there are 22 Spanish speaking countries in the world and I have been to 6 of them. For me it was really helpful to know some Spanish in case of urgency and just to send friendly regards on top of a smile. I was happy to see the most adorable smiley kids in Guatemala and I was proud to find my way around in Spain!
Whichever language you learn, use it, play with it and have fun with it!
If you already speak one of these 3 languages, congratulation! You speak a global language! But if you want to increase your world coverage, now you know which language to learn and why. Lastly about learning a foreign language: “Please do not limit yourself in classrooms, make sure you get to use the languages in the world! Trust me, it would be a lot of fun! 😉