The second most spoken languages around the world

While many people would guess that English is the second most commonly spoken language in a majority of countries, that’s only true for some areas.


For example, despite its proximity to North America, the only Central American countries to list English as their second most spoken language are Costa Rica and Panama. Similarly, in South America, Chile is the only country to have English as its second most spoken language, which just over 10% of the population claims to speak as a primary language. Throughout the rest of South America, regional indigenous languages are commonly the second most spoken, replacing English as a second language.

In Europe, a continent known for its diverse languages where people are often multilingual, the second most spoken language varies greatly among countries. From Gaelic to Catalan, Finnish to Slovak, and Hungarian to Belarusian, Europe boasts several different second most spoken languages, showcasing its cosmopolitan residents and their wide-ranging backgrounds. 

In some countries, the second most spoken language is used predominantly by the educated classes and/or in major cities. For example, in Libya, English is the second most spoken language, and it is commonly understood among the educated classes. Similarly, in Jordan, English is the most commonly spoken second language and is widely understood among educated upper and middle class people.

Other countries use the second most commonly spoken language as a “lingua franca,” or a bridge language shared by persons who don’t share a native language. This often occurs when the lingua franca is a third language, separate from native languages, and these languages are commonly used for commercial, diplomatic, and administrative languages. For example, in Algeria, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Morocco, French is the second most spoken language, and it’s used by many as the lingua franca; in Pakistan, English is the lingua franca among educated classes.

Interestingly, the area of the world where English is the second most commonly spoken language is Asia, especially Southeast Asia. Countries such as Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, and India are becoming increasingly common, especially as speakers of various ethnic languages and dialect use English as a common language. Many schools in Japan and South Korea also teach English from a very early age, increasing its prevalence throughout the country.

As the world continues to become more connected thanks to technology, it becomes even more crucial to be able to understand each other. No matter where you are, even if you don’t speak the official language, there’s a high chance that you’ll be able to communicate with others using the second most spoken languages or a lingua franca.