Pos Language Speakers (Millions) Where Spoken (Major)
1 Mandarin 1051 China, Malaysia, Taiwan
2 English 510 USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand
3 Hindi 490 North and Central India
4 Spanish 425 The Americas, Spain
5 Arabic 255 Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
6 Russian 254 Russia, Central Asia
7 Portuguese 218 Brazil, Portugal, Southern Africa
8 Bengali 215 Bangladesh, Eastern India
9 Malay, Indonesian 175 Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore
10 French 130 France, Canada, West Africa, Central Africa
11 Japanese 127 Japan
12 German 123 Germany, Austria, Central Europe
13 Farsi (Persian) 110 Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia
14 Urdu 104 Pakistan, India
15 Punjabi 103 Pakistan, India
16 Vietnamese 86 Vietnam, China
17 Tamil 78 Southern India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia
18 Wu 77 China
19 Javanese 76 Indonesia
20 Turkish 75 Turkey, Central Asia
21 Telugu 74 Southern India
22 Korean 72 Korean Peninsula
23 Marathi 71 Western India
24 Italian 61 Italy, Central Europe
25 Thai 60 Thailand, Laos
26 Cantonese 55 Southern China
27 Gujarati 47 Western India, Kenya
28 Polish 46 Poland, Central Europe
29 Kannada 44 Southern India
30 Burmese 42 Myanmar

(source: http://www.krysstal.com/spoken.html)

Learn some more…

Spanish: spoken in more than 25 countries and with 330 million speakers. Spanish is spoken by 100 millions people in Mexico, 44 millions in Colombia, 41 millions in Spain, 39 millions in Argentina and 22 millions in the USA. There are over 330 million native speakers of Spanish worldwide.

Spanish is spoken in Spain, Andorra, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Equatorial Guinea, Colombia, Puerto-Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Gibraltar, Nicaragua, Mexico and by more than 22 million people in large portions of the United States that were taken from Mexico according to the ‘doctrine of manifest destiny’. Spanish is also an official language of the US state of New Mexico and the city of Miami, Florida, has the highest number of Spanish speakers outside Latin America.

French is the official language of: France, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Canada, Madagascar, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Belgium, Rwanda, Haiti, Switzerland, Burundi, Togo, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Comoros, Djibouti, Luxembourg, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mauritius, Vanuatu, Seychelles. It is also widely understood in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Lebanon. You will also find small communities of speakers in a dozen other countries.

About 75 million speak French as their mother tongue, but an additional 55 million know it as a communication language.

Portuguese: spoken by about 160 million, mainly in Brazil and Portugal. Also spoken in Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, S. Tomé and Príncipe, East Timor.

Italian is mainly spoken in Italy, with 58 million native speakers. Other countries where it is an official language include San Marino and the Vatican, two tiny enclaves within Italy, and Ticino, a Swiss canton with a population of 840,000. Italian is also spoken in some areas of Croatia and Slovenia. Expatriate communities abroad make up for an additional 5 million speakers.

Chinese: Anywhere from 60 to 100 million speakers according to most estimates. Cantonese is among the top 20 most spoken languages in the world. The greatest concentration of Cantonese speakers are located in southeast China, mainly in the populous Guangdong province, parts of Guangxi province, the island of Hainan, Hong Kong, and Macau. Other southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam also have a significant number of speakers. There are large and well established Cantonese communities all around the world, notably in North America, Europe, and Australia. Cantonese speakers were the earliest Chinese immigrants in many of these countries and despite the more recent migration of Mandarin and Hokkien speakers, the Cantonese still form a majority among the Chinese population in most countries.

There is at least some economic benefit to learning Cantonese, especially if you wish to do business with one of the many companies in the industrious Guangdong province. Although many speak Mandarin as a second language, most native Cantonese speakers prefer speaking Cantonese. Hong Kong also remains an economic powerhouse, but your benefit there is less due to the wide use of English.

German: There are approximately 75 million German speakers in Germany, 7 million in Austria, 260,000 in Luxembourg, 3,400,000 in Switzerland, and about 1,500,000 in Alsace-Lorraine. There are many German speakers in Eastern Europe but the subject is quite sensitive and no statistics are available. The total number of speakers is said to be 120 millions. The language is spoken in Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and in regions of Italy and Belgium.

Russian: At least 167 million people speak Russian as their mother tongue, and a further 110 million use it as a communication language. Russian is an official language of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan as well as the UN. It is widely understood in the Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Azerbaidjan, Turkmenistan, Moldavia and Tadjikistan.

Outside former soviet countries, Russian is the mother tongue of more than 750,000 people in Israel, where you can find Russian-language newspapers and TV channels.

Many people in Eastern Europe (Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, east Germany) understand Russian, but it is generally perceived as the language of the former oppressor and it is not generally positive to be classified as Russian-speaking.

English has long been the lingua franca of the business world but to work in the international marketplace, being multi-lingual is increasingly important.   Besides English, French and Spanish are the most valuable languages in the business world today. Some 1,550 Human Resource and Financial directors were polled in nine countries throughout Europe as well as Australia and New Zealand.  After English, French ranked first, with 28 percent of respondents citing it as one of the most valuable languages to know while Spanish was a close second with 24 percent. Nearly 17 percent of respondents said German was the most important language to speak after English.

“In the globalized business environment, multilingualism is essential”, said Valerie Koreman, a senior executive with an employment agency in The Hague.   Latin languages may be important to speak in the business world today but that could also be changing. Chinese might become the most valuable business language – besides English – in the coming years.