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Which Languages Have The Most Users Globally?

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Linguistics, the science of language, is a very important and interesting subject, dealing in history, development, speaking and writing, reading of a language.

There are more than 6,500 (maybe up to 7,000) languages in the world. Some are extinct, some are endangered, while few are spoken by limited people. Busuu is such a language in Cameroon that is limited to 8 people (found in 1984–86). After the discovery of this endangered language, some volunteers are trying to spread and save it. The result is unknown.

There are few languages that have no users, known as “non spoken language”, like Sanskrit, Latin. Many are extinct or dead ones and the living ones are known as modern languages, like Hindi. An estimate says, by 2050, many languages will merge with each other or go extinct, and this may be close to 90%.

Representative Image.

Dialects are more than the above number of languages. For example, they are close to 19,500 in India itself. Dialects are a form of language spoken in one area of a country. They are mutually intelligible and even use colloquial words different from the prime or mother language. They do develop their own vocabulary, method of pronunciations, accents, grammar, slang and spelling.

However, there are few major languages (15–20), which are used in more than half the globe. We will see few important languages, their characteristics, history and related issues in brief.

The number of speakers of these languages may differ, depending upon the method of survey, official status, uses and standard of the users in speaking, writing, etc. So the following data may not be strictly accurate.


English is spoken by more than 1,132 million people. It is also known as “sky language”, as it is used by the aviators and ground controllers, also used by the sea-farers (sailors). This language is very adaptive and has subsumed many words from other languages coming into contact with them while interacting or doing business or when the Britishers colonised other countries for a long time.

It has many words from Hindi, like Guru, Yoga, Karma, Cheetah, etc. It has “borrowed” approximately 40% of words from French. Now it boasts of more than one million words.

Mandarin Chinese

Almost 1,117 million people speak this language. Related to Sino-Tibetan and Burmese, it is the official language of China, Taiwan, Singapore. This is also known as tone language, where the meaning of a word changes the way it is pronounced. Chinese has 50 thousand characters. However, if one learns approximately 2,500 of them, one can communicate with the other Chinese speaking people.

This language has no conjugations, tense or gender-specific words.


Spoken by 615 million, it is related to Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Kashmiri, Nepali and many dialects (or languages or colloquial ones), like Maithili, Bhojpuri, Magahi, Bajika, Pali (extinct language). This is also spoken in Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana. This language is highly influenced by Sanskrit, both Vedic and Classical. This word is named by the Persian word Hind (Land of Indus river).


Spoken by 534 million people, it is related to French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian. It is the official language in 22 countries, spanning four continents. This is the second most studied language in the world, and if this trend continues, more than 10% of Earthians will be able to communicate in Spanish within three generations.


Representative Image. (Source: Photo by form PxHere)

Almost 280 million speak this language and it is said to be one of the most beautiful languages. It is related to Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian. It is the official language of France, Quebec (Canada), Senegal, Madagascar.


With 274 million users, it is of the Afro-Asiatic family. It is related to Hebrew-Amharic, Aramaic. It has 11 words for “Love”. All symbolise the different stages of falling in love. It has influenced many languages; English, Spanish, Portuguese and other European languages.

Bengali or Bangla

Spoken by 265 million, it is the official language of Bengal (India) and Bangladesh. Indo-Aryan, related to Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Kashmiri, Nepali. It is said to be another beautiful language, at par with the French. It is the seventh most spoken language in the world.


Spoken by 258 million, spread the world over, more so in ex-USSR and neighbouring countries. It belongs to the family of East Slavic, Indo-European and is related to Ukrainian, Belarusian. This language has “donated” many words to other languages on Astronomy and Aviation.

You might have heard of Sputnik (Soviet artificial satellites) vaccination. It has only 2,00,000 words (English has 1 million words).


It is spoken by 234 million users. It belongs to the Indo-European family and is related to Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian. It is the official language of Brazil, Portugal and has official status in Angola, Mozambique, E Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe. 


With 199 million users, it is the official language of Indonesia, Malaysia. It is related to Malay, Javanese, Subndernese.


More than 170 million people speak this language. It is from the Indo-Aryan family and is related to Hindi, Bengali and many other Indian languages. It is one of the most beautiful languages at par with French and Bengali.


Almost 132 million speakers use this language and it has produced many revolutionaries and revolutionary works. It is known for endless sentences. 

Indo-European Language

It is not a language in itself, but the mother of many ones, as has been discussed above. It is a family of languages native to West and South Eurasia, most of Europe, North Indian-Subcontinents, Iranian plateau. It also encompasses Albanian, Armenian, Baltic-Slavic, Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Indo-Iranian, Italic.

It encompasses approximately half the world. In the 16th Century, few European visitors in India found that they had many common words and similarities in Indo-Aryan, Iranian and European languages. Since then, our knowledge of languages has increased a lot.

Languages are above the class division of any society like we have means of production, politics. It is similar for all classes, be it for the rulers or the ruled. It has a very specific contribution in the formation of nations, like geographical boundaries, culture, economic activities of the society and all of them build a nation, like Italian, Tamil, Tibetan, Irish, Albanian nations. 

The description above is very brief and an interested person may take it up for further study. The development of languages is along with the development of the productive forces and human civilisation.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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