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Most Spoken Language of the World

Marlene Alphonse Jul 23, 2020

Though there are many languages spoken across the world, the most spoken language is Mandarin Chinese. The origin and history of this language, which has the most number of speakers, is quite fascinating...
In this age of globalization, where communication is no longer a barrier between people of varied cultures, have you ever wondered what is the most spoken language, in the world? Language is the mode of communication among human beings. People across the globe communicate with each other in different languages.
The word 'language' is taken from the Latin Lingua, meaning tongue. The term language can be classified into three types namely, spoken, written and sign language. The scientific study of the natural language is called linguistics.
Every country has its own official language, with a few of them having the same language. However, there is one language that is considered to be the widely spoken language of the world.
Among all the well-known languages like English, Hindustani (Hindi), Spanish, French, Japanese, Portuguese, etc. the most spoken language of the world is the Chinese language. Chinese is the official language spoken in mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, Macao and Hong Kong.
Chinese has many dialects, out of which, Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world. This dialect is spoken across the northern and south-western parts of China and has more speakers than any other language across the globe. This language has approximately more than one billion speakers.
Chinese Mandarin, also known as Putonghua, alone has a population of approximately 874,000,000 first language speakers and including the second language speakers the population is 1,052,000,000 approximately.
So, the total number of speakers including other dialects of the Chinese language for the first and second language is approximately 1,146,755,000 and 1,343,755,000 respectively. This makes it the language most spoken in the world.

History of Mandarin Chinese

Since China is geographically large in size, it has been the land of numerous languages and dialects. Mandarin is one such language that belongs to the Sino-Tibetan group of languages. Mandarin is a tonal language, having four distinct tones and the method in which words are pronounced alters the meaning.
The term 'Mandarin' was coined by the Portuguese, who used it while referring to the Imperial Chinese Court magistrates and the language used by them.
Mandarin is known by many local names like Pu tong hua (meaning common language and is used in mainland China), Guo yu (the national language of Taiwan) and Hua yu (Chinese language spoken in Malaysia and Singapore). One form of Mandarin is spoken as a dialect in Beijing while the other form is used to refer to a particular language group.
The history of Mandarin Chinese can be traced back to the later part of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and flourished in Beijing during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). It was used as the standard language or koine by the educated class of people, especially the court officials.
Though the capital of China was changed to Beijing from Nanjing during the Ming dynasty and remained the same during the Qing dynasty, Mandarin Chinese continued as the official language of China.

Writing System

Mandarin uses a writing system of Chinese characters, known as Hanzi. Earlier, graphical representations of objects or pictographs were used as a writing system and used to represent only objects. But due to its complex nature, the characters were re-created and now they represent both objects as well as ideas.
The Chinese characters can be divided into six categories namely: pictographs, associative compounds, phonetic loan characters, mutually explanatory characters, pictophonetic characters and self-explanatory characters. Approximately 6,000 years ago, written Chinese used carved symbols or drawn figures as characters.
The Chinese language has more than 55,000 characters and only 3,000 characters are used. The Chinese characters are also used in East Asian calligraphy. The Chinese words are monosyllabic in nature, i.e. they have only one syllable, and are combined with phonetic elements.
In the 1950s, the Chinese government introduced simplified characters instead of the traditional ones to improve literacy in China. Since, learning Mandarin is difficult, students in China use romanization i.e. use of the Western or Roman alphabet to transcribe the sounds of Mandarin. The popular system for teaching Mandarin through romanization is Pinvin.
Mandarin Chinese is also one of the official languages in the United Nations. Since, more than 25% of the world's population speaks Chinese, it has become the most spoken language of the world, with the number of speakers increasing.