Languages of the World

Thanks to globalization, we live in an interconnected world. It is easier than ever to reach across cultural and geographic boundaries and connect with people who speak other languages.There are thousands of different languages of the world. However, most languages have fewer than one million speakers. Of languages with over a million speakers, most are only important at a local scale. There are only a handful of tongues that are really world languages.What Makes a World LanguageWorld languages have two main features. First, they have many speakers. Secondly, they are important internationally and are learned by non-native speakers.For the sake of brevity, this article will focus on the UN official languages: English, Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, and Russian. We will give some information about each language and discuss why it is important.EnglishInitially, English was the language of the British. Britain has been an important power for centuries. It integrated much of the world into its vast trading empire. This is why English is so widespread today.In the present day, English is the main language of the United States. It is also used heavily in India. Because it is such a widespread language, many international organizations use English to facilitate communication between people of different nationalities.SpanishSpain was the first European power to colonize the Americas. As a result, many countries in the Western Hemisphere use Spanish as their national languages. It is also a prominent language in the United States. Spanish has nearly 500 million speakers.FrenchLike the British and Spanish, the French used to have a vast international empire. As a result, French is spoken not only in France, but also in Quebec and much of Africa.France was at the forefront of culture and diplomacy for a long time, so for many years French was considered the international language. Today it is still considered a prestige language in many circles, and it is still used by international organizations.Mandarin ChineseChinese civilization has existed for thousands of years. Over that time, its culture has influenced many other cultures in East Asia and Southeast Asia.Today, China has a massive population of 1.3 billion people. It is a trading partner with many other nations, and its economy is growing rapidly. All of these factors help to explain why Mandarin Chinese is such an important language.Mandarin is one of several dialects of Chinese. Each dialect sounds different, and some consider each dialect to be a distinct language. However, all dialects of Chinese use the pictographic Chinese writing system.ArabicArabic is the main language spoken in much of the Middle East and North Africa. Arabic came to prominence in the early Middle Ages, when the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula conquered the surrounding regions.Arabic is the language of Islam. This has helped it to spread beyond the lands of the old Arab empires. Today, most major cities have Arabic speaking people due to the migration of Muslims around the world.Arabic comes in many varieties. International business Arabic is known as Modern Standard Arabic. Each country also has its own homegrown dialect of Arabic. These dialects can differ greatly from Modern Standard Arabic and from other national dialects.RussianRussia has been a major European power for centuries, and the Soviet Union was a superpower that lasted for decades. During this time Russian became an language of the world. In the early 1990s the Soviet Union split into 15 countries. Russian continues to be an important language in many of these countries.Russia also has huge natural resource reserves. These help to maintain the prominence of the Russian language.