united nations

What are the Top 5 World Languages in 2050?

German Made Simple


What are the languages that will be most widely spoken by the middle of this century? According to so called engco model of language forecasting the top 5 languages in 2050 are going to be

  • Chinese
  • Spanish
  • English
  • Hindi-Urdu
  • Arabic

I guess, there is no big surprise in this list in the end but those are undoubtedly the realities that children have to face when growing up and search their workplace in this globalized world, even more so than us today. It is expected that Chinese, Spanish and English will be the dominant languages in global commerce.

As a side note, there are also statistics that predict, the United States will become the biggest Spanish speaking country by 2050. This would also lead to Spanish being the second-most-spoken language after Chinese.

So what are the challenges? Of course, we need to prepare future generations who will be part of the workforce in 2050 for what we think the global landscape will look like by then. Unfortunately, most plannings in the education sector don’t go that far ahead. I feel, in many cases the state of affairs in the public school sector is even behind today’s realities, already.

What we will might see then are phenomenons similar to the run on German language classes we are currently seeing in southern European countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece or Italy. There are people waiting in line in front of the Goethe Institut in Valencia because they think learning German will give them the opportunity to find a job in Germany.

Therefore, I was astonished to learn that in the state of Georgia many schools now made learning Mandarin mandatory in public schools from pre-K through 12th grade. According to NPR “most of the 25,000 students are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced lunch, and about half don’t graduate.”

Superintendent Romain Dallemand argues that “Students who are in elementary school today, by 2050 they’ll be at the pinnacle of their career. They will live in a world where China and India will have 50 percent of the world GDP. They will live in a world where, if they cannot function successfully in the Asian culture, they will pay a heavy price.”

Of course, Dallemand gets some headwind from parents who would rather see their kids learn Spanish for the reasons I mentioned above. But Dallemand says that “it is important for communities to educate our children for their future, not our past.”

What do you think? Do you have children who have just started school? What languages do you want them to learn to be prepared for the future?

via New America Media | NPR – Picture by Yann, via Wikimedia Commons

Speaking of Languages - Infographic
From: www.transparent.com

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Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor in chief of Fair Languages. She is one of the most renowned education bloggers, founder of EDUKWEST and has been an online language coach since the early days. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
  • komodov

    And in what language was this sentence written?

    “What we will might see then are phenomenons similar to the run on German language classes we are currently seeing in southern European countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece or Italy.”

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      That’s what I call “late night English” :)

  • guest

    There are not 1.2 billion mandarin speakers, more like 850 million. That number probably includes a lot of Cantonese speakers as well as other types of Chinese.

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      Yes, I think you are right.

      • raul

        Portuguese is a language of the future. It is spoken officially in 10 countries, comprising 5 continents. 250 million conservative figure. Now with the World Cup 2014 and Olympics in 2016 In Brasil, everyone is going to want to learn Portuguese as a second language. Watch out, the Portuguese language is here and it is the 5th or 6th most spoken in the world right now. Plus we understand Spanish perfectly.Talk about an advantage.

        • Cesáreo

          I think dominance doesn’t depend on “how many” speak a language but “who” speak it.

          • Joe

            That’s right. Even the Chinese are learning Portuguese as they are doing a ton of trade with all the Portuguese speaking countries. Who else speaks Portuguese? How about Brazilians? Brazil’s economy is currently the 5th strongest in the world. Angola and Mozambique are African economic emerging powerhouses, and both of these countries have Portuguese as the official language. Macau, China gambling revenues already exceeds those of Las Vegas…and Portuguese is a co-official language there. I could give many more examples, but you get the picture, I hope.

        • Comentador

          Pero qué coño dices del portugués XDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003233041467 Ruslan Abu Sneineh

    Good… From these languages, I know Arabic and English…. :) Also, Russian, Ukrainian and somewhat German… :) (After German, targeting Spanish, French or Latin)

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      Then you are already well prepared :)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/cedric.smeets Cedric Smeets

    Yeah right, only 59 mil french speakers… I’m sure the 60 mil frenchies, the 4 mil belgian french speaking, the 7 mil canadian french speaking, the swiss, all the african countries where the french is the only vehicular language are happy to read this… 120 mil should be more accurate but, hey whatever… Keep being you, that’s always a pleasure to see the world form an anglo-saxon point of view…

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      The 59 million is the number of French speakers connected to the Internet. There are also only 75 million German speakers, representing about 79% of the German population.

      And though you are right that the Infographic probably reflects an anglo-saxon point of view as Transfluent is based in the U.S. I should point out that if you want to categorize my point of view you should know that I am German and live in France :)

      • http://imlearninggerman.com/ Erik Andersen


  • http://www.facebook.com/cedric.smeets Cedric Smeets

    Juste the mention” Chinese” as a language spoken by “1.2 billion” people shows how little the author knows about what’s outside the borders of his own country… Chinses is NOT a language and the most common language is “Mandarine” and is native to only about 300 mil people, and is sopken by around 7 to 800 mil people…

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      The number of Arabic speakers is also not correct but that’s the problem with these infographics. According to Wikipedia the number is somewhere between 280 million and 440 million depending on what dialects are counted in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cedric.smeets Cedric Smeets

    And since the author is also the founder of Deutsch Happens, which goal is to promote German as a foreign language, and since the 120 mil frenchspaking are now replaced by the 90 germanspeaking at #10 in your top 10, I call this an intellectual fraud… But hey again, she’s also the editor of this site… Wonders how long these comments are going to stay…

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      Oh dear. Because I offer free German lessons I pick infographics that list German in the top 10? Really?

      And if you would take the time and read the graphic you would notice that it’s not “my” top ten, it’s the top ten of Transparent Languages. Fell free to contact them with your issues at http://www.transparent.com.

      And why do you worry about your comment?

  • http://imlearninggerman.com/ Erik Andersen

    I’ll be doing everything I can to get German back into the Top 5! ;-)

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      Viel Glück :) As long as Germany’s economy and export numbers stay relevant, knowing German will be a good “niche” skill. ;)

      • http://imlearninggerman.com/ Erik Andersen

        Kirsten… From a business perspective, German won’t be too important to me. As you pointed out in a recent exchange we had, I’m well over 25 years old now and irrelevant in the job market! ;-)… Learning German is just for my own personal satisfaction at the moment. But you never know, if Angela ever retires… there may be a job going….

        • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

          Don’t count on that. Mutti will rule Germany forever :)

      • Joe

        Too bad German will never be as important as Spanish or English unless its Europe then yes.

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  • Loup Solitaire

    I think the top 5 is wrong. My analysis gives :

    1. Chinese (Mandarin) : around 850m to 1300m depending on the local languages strength
    2. French : 715m (official prediction, but highly depends of literacy rates improvements in French-speaking Africa)
    3. Hindi (all dialects) : around 710m (if 42% of Indians rate is stable)
    4. Spanish
    5. English
    6. Arab

    • Sam

      No way my friend. French cannot be a top language neither today nor in 40 years :D

    • Cesáreo


      • Randy McDonald

        French is a widely-spoken world language, not only the native language of 75 million or so first-language speakers in the developed world (France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, etc) but an official and spoken language of numerous African countries with a combined population of a quarter-billion people.

    • Comentador

      Sigue soñando XDDDDDDDDDDDDD

  • Lorena

    There is a huge MISTAKE about PORTUGUESE language!

    There are more than 256 million NATIVE people speaking it worldwide (never it will be 178 million, just Brazil has more than 200 million people speaking it), imagine non-native people… the number gonna high for more than 280 million. Portuguese is officialy spoken by 9 countries and it’s taught obligatorily by most of south american countries…

    I don’t konw about the future, but Portuguese is the 5ht most spoken language in the world nowadays.


    • Cesáreo

      taught obligatorily by most of south american countries? really?

      • Randy McDonald

        By Brazil’s Mercosur partners, yes.

        • German Cuellar

          That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Portuguese is only taught in Brazil (I was born in Colombia an lived in Argentina)

    • German Cuellar

      That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Portuguese is only taught in Brazil (I was born in Colombia an lived in Argentina)…

  • Geo Washington I

    I guess none of you consider that technology rules the world and technolgy is driven by programming.

    All computer code is written in English.

    English will still be the most dominant language in 2050.

    • Comentador

      Sigue soñando XDDDDDDDD

  • swami

    TAMIL is the Best language

    • CompaqdeskproEN

      English because tamil is hard to swite well harder than english but it aint a bad language.

  • swami

    Spain, Portugal, Greece ,German,French & Russian all are do not have OWN LATTER
    That languages how can come ” top10 “

  • CompaqdeskproEN

    ENGLISH i want spanish to die forever because it just sucks.

    • CompaqdeskproEN

      i know it too i like english better

      • Cesáreo

        English grammar rules. English pronunciation sucks.

    • Ninette

      Spanish “just sucks”?
      Would you care to ellaborate on that statement?
      Why does it suck?
      Do you not like the sound of the language? Is the writing system a bit difficult, in your opinion? Does the language itself give the impression that it might be difficult to master?
      If you’re going to criticize something, at least give a better argument than, “[object of criticism here] just sucks.”

      • Joe

        No he just jealous! Jealous that there are people in this country that speaks it and in many other countries.

      • Monika Otter

        My guess is that CompaqdeskproEN is about 13 years old and having a tough time with Spanish class in middle school. Don’t take this too seriously.

  • mark

    my experience in travel is that people in all countries are racing to learn english because it is the language of global economics and politics. perhaps the raw total number of humans will speak chinese, but there is no factor analysis in this statement. for example, if the majority of people on earth speak chinese as their native language, they will still have to speak english to engage in commerce and politics. all native languages other than english will become vestigial if the internet continues as the foundation of the global economy. i now live and teach english in cambodia. some students here are studying chinese as well because there is economic benefit in trade with china here and now. but people in china are also studying english, and i would bet that in less than ten years the people here in cambodia who are studying chinese will find that all the chinese people they meet are speaking english! and i agree the with coder, since i am one, and would add that i have never seen a computer program written in chinese or spanish.

  • Myu tube

    The images you put below the article are wrong, Hindi has more native speakers than Arabic.

  • Heather

    Honestly, this makes me want to not learn these languages. Why? Because we need those other estimated 90%! Yes, you might be able to do business with the more common languages. but do not neglect the smaller ones! Languages are systems of dispersing culture and thought, and a lot is lost in translation. So learn these if you want, but remember that the world loses diversity when languages go extinct. Keep the variety!

  • Ricky Minaj

    Esperanto is the best language.

    • Comentador

      Vuelve a la cama.

  • Atabaskan

    There is no any data about Turkish or Turkic languages. It is the most spreaded language in Eurasia which is spoken more then 200 million people in 15 countries at least

  • Comentador

    Aprendan español y háganse un favor.

  • John

    One of the obvious languages is in not included in the top 5 – Portuguese.
    Portuguese is spoken on 5 continents. The 10 Portuguese speaking countries currently, and will have, tremendous world economic influence i.e., Brazil (1 of the 4 BRIC countries, and 5th strongest world economy right now – 200 million speakers right there).
    In Africa 6 nations speak Portuguese officially. Of these, Angola has a booming economy, and Mozambique is not far behind. These are oil rich countries – 30 million Portuguese speakers.)
    In Asia you have Macau, China (Macau is the Las Vegas of Asia. Macau is also the Asian gateway to the Portuguese speaking world). And East Timor which is also an oil rich country. Portuguese is co-officially spoken there with Tetum which itself has tons of Portuguese vocabulary. Goa in India is also important because it wants to do business which the Portuguese speaking world, especially Brazil. There is a huge Brazilian/Japanese community in Brazil too.
    In Europe you have Portugal. Portuguese influence in all around the globe and getting stronger day by day.

  • BlatantIgnorant

    Didn’t you forget French? It is spoken in countries other than France…