Count about six times of Europe’s population, Asia is surely a massive continent. The continent is the home to approximately 4.46 billion people who speak about 2,300 languages. The diversity of languages in Asia may overwhelm people who want to learn a new language, so here are the list of the most spoken languages in Asia and those who speak them: Source : What's the most spoken languages in Asia?
Chinese – 1 billion speakers in Asia
It’s crystal clear that Chinese is the most popular language in Asia, but you’re wrong if you think Chinese refers to only one language. Here’s the thing: it’s actually a family of language dialects. The most popular version of language among all is Mandarin Chinese. It’s the official language of China which is spoken by around 51% of the whole population of Asia. Aside from Mandarin, there are other foremost dialects of Chinese such as Min, Wu, and Yue.
Looking at the great amount of the country’s population, no wonder if Chinese becomes the most popular language among thousands of other languages in Asia. The huge economic growth in China also makes Mandarin one of the principal languages with 1.2 billion speakers worldwide. Moreover, analysts predict China to join the leading economy by 2050, so you better start learning the language as soon as possible.
Hindi – 550 million speakers in Asia
Hindi is the most spoken language in India as it becomes the lingua franca of Hindi belt—a central zone of India united by language. Hindi and its dialects are spoken across the north and central India. There are other common languages in India including Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu which is reciprocally electable with Hindi—the speakers of the two languages can understand each other since the meaning of the languages is pretty similar.
English – 300 million speakers in Asia
It’s not a surprise that English comes in this list. As the lingua franca of the world, the language is spoken by over 2 billion people all around the world. The earliest introduction of English in the continent can be traced back to European colonisation of Asia. Later, the language was adopted as English became the universal language of the world. English is officially used in India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia. Pidgin English also has its popularity in Papua New Guinea. Linguists believe that 17%of Asia’s population are English speakers.
Russian – 260 million speakers in Asia
Seriously? Russian is in the list? Yup! It makes senses that Russian has a spot in the list since Russia is the largest country (by landmass) in the world. Former Soviet countries—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and disputed territories in Georgia—still speak Russian as well. Besides, United Nations considered Russian as one of its official language.
Indonesian – 240 million speakers in Asia
You may think that Indonesian wouldn’t be as popular as other “famous” language like Japanese or Korean, it’s actually more popular. According to linguists, Indonesian speakers make up 10% of Asia’s population. Beyond Indonesia itself, the language is used in East Timor as a working language.
As mentioned earlier, Indonesian and Malay are closely related. As a matter of fact, it is considered a dialect of the Malay language with the differences only lying in vocabulary and accent. Indonesian is believed to be the native language of approximately 23 million people. It is also spoken by a said 156 million people as a second language. Unlike languages like Mandarin and Japanese which have their own writing script, Indonesian uses the Latin script. For this reason, it is considered one of the easiest Asian languages to learn.
Arabic – 230 million speakers in Asia
The Middle East as part of the Asian continent is the place where Arabic grew and developed. The linguists classified Arabic as Afro-Asiatic language which means it was originated from both Africa and Asia. The language has a close relation to ancient middle-eastern languages such as Aramaic, Amharic, and Hebrew. The language is used as the official language in 25 countries like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, etc.
Bengali or Bangla – 230 million speakers in Asia
In Asia, both Arabic and Bengali have a similar number of speakers. Bengali as the official language of Bangladesh has about 98% of Bangladeshis as its speaker. Aside from Bangladesh, Bengali speakers can also be found on West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, Andaman, and the Nicobar Islands. Bengali belongs to the Indo-Aryan family and has a relation to other languages in India. The Bangla bornomala aka the Bengali-Assamese script is considered to be one of the most widely used writing system in the world.
Japanese – 120 million speakers in Asia
You probably expected that Japanese has a higher number of speakers, didn’t you? Despite the popularity of Japanese culture and language, it only has 5% speakers of the whole Asian population. The language is considered as one of the most difficult and complex languages to learn in terms of writing. Japanese has four systems of writing: hiragana, katakana, kanji, and romanji. Hiragana is the most authentic system of writing used for simple words and children’s literature. Katakana is used to write foreign words. Kanji is the system based on the Chinese writing system which consists of 2000 characters. Romanji is the romanised form of Japanese words. Besides the uniqueness from its complexity, Japanese is the one and only Asian language that isn’t tonal. However, the science and technology that keeps developing in Japan, experts assume that the number of Japanese language speakers is going to increase in the coming years.
Filipino – 93 million speakers in Asia
The population of the Philippines have about 130 languages, but the official language is Filipino. Filipino is the most popular among a hundred languages in the Philippines that it’s spoken in other nations like United States. The recent scientist stated that around a third of Filipinos speak Filipino as the first language, while about 45 million more speak it as a second language. People often confuse Filipino with Tagalog because of its similarity. In fact, Tagalog is the foundation of Filipino. Tagalog is spoken in Central Luzon, while Filipino is spoken nationwide. Filipino is heavily influenced by Spanish due to the colonisation back in the past. Almost 40% of its vocabulary consist of Spanish words. Read more: Southeast Asian Languages