Most Spoken Languages in Europe
By: Shahzad Bashir
The world of today may have shrunk into a global village but it still consists of continents and countries that are as diverse as their origins. Europe, too, is a place quite apart from rest of the continents with its different countries, regions, cultures, food, and of course, language.
Before I dwell on the importance of learning the languages of Europe (for it is a debate thoroughly discussed many times), it is important to look at what these languages are and how many of the Europeans speak these languages. You may be surprised at some of the language names mentioned in this list:
This language was entirely an expected one, right? Spoken by 38% of Europe, English is the lingua franca of the world, having a huge figure of 400 million native speakers worldwide, out of which approximately 70 million live in Europe. Although it is not the official language of United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the large number of migrants residing in Europe also add to this figure.
As far as the second language is concerned, about one-third of Europeans can speak English as their second language. When the number of these immigrants living in Europe is combined with the number of second-hand English speakers, it will be easy to navigate within Europe if you can only speak English.
French, spoken by 12% of Europe, is another Roman language having its roots in the Indo-European linguistic origins. French is the official language in Monaco, West Switzerland, and Brussels, as well as the jointly official language in Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg.
It may not be a dominant language globally (having only 80 million speakers), but it is one of the top 2 most spoken languages in Europe. About 30% of Europeans have learnt French as a second language, making it one of the most sought after options in Europe.
This language is no surprise for anyone, as it is the powerhouse of all trade and business in Europe. German is spoken by 11% of Europe while Germany is the economic engine of Europe and the country from where maximum number of jobs are applied.
Also termed as the language of philosophers and thinkers, German is the second for the largest group of native-speaking population in Europe, being the official language of Austria, Germany and Liechtenstein, and the co-official language in Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg (alongside French). This makes up approximately 95 million people in Europe who speak German as their first language.
Spain is known as one of Europe’s best tourist destinations with its warm and relaxing summer weather. Spanish is spoken by 7% of the European population and approximately 45 million of them claim Spanish as their mother tongue.
More than 20 countries have declared Spanish as the official language and it is the native language of more than 480 million people globally. No wonder Spanish is the second most widely-spoken language in the world. Spanish is also recognized as one of the most useful languages to learn after English, German, and French.
Lastly, Russian is the language not to be forgotten as it is spoken by 5% of Europe. Enjoying a heavy domination in the East, there is somewhat little exposure in the Western part of Europe.
The unique aspect of Russian language is that most Russian speakers only know Russian and no other language, except a meager 5% of the population. It is the official language of Russian and Belarus, along with being spoken widely in many European countries.
There are approximately 24 languages spoken in Europe, but the number of languages spoken in the European continent exceeds 200.
When recognizing the number most spoken languages in Europe, one cannot overlook the small regional languages owing to geographic, historical, and social factors such as Basque, Galician, Catalan, Welsh, and Gaelic—languages that have managed to preserve their own essence through the times.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that one should always look for these common languages to learn when planning to travel or move to Europe as learning a new language is the foremost criteria of adapting to any culture.