Europe is an amazing and one-of-a-kind destination because it is home to all of these languages and cultures within a relatively small geographic area.
In this article, we will break down the top 24 most common languages in Europe. From Russian and German to Spanish and English, read on to learn more about the languages spoken on the continent.
Top 24 Most Common Languages in Europe
There are many different languages spoken in Europe, but some are more common than others. Here are the top 24 most spoken languages in Europe, based on the number of native speakers:
#1 Russian – 160 million people
With around 160 million native speakers, Russian tops our list as the most spoken language in Europe! What is more, over 258 million people speak Russian worldwide, which makes it the most geographically widespread Slavic language.
#2 German – 95 million people
German, the language of thought and philosophy, is one of the most widely spoken languages in Europe. It has the second-largest native-speaking population on the old continent. It is a co-official language in Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and the sole official language of Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein.
And did you know that, after English, German is the language with the most widespread understanding? This is on the grounds that it’s famous as a second (or third, or fourth) language in Denmark, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, Poland, Finland, Hungary, and numerous other European nations. Consider adding it to your travel itinerary for Germany!
#3 French – 80 million people
French comes in third on the list of languages spoken the most in Europe. Naturally, France uses it as its official language, but Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg also use it as a co-official language. When you take into account the percentage of people who learned French as a second language, you can see that more than 30% of Europeans speak it.
However, the fact that nearly 30 nations recognize French as an official or administrative language is evidence of the language’s global reach, which is even more impressive than its utility in Europe!
#4 Turkish – 78 million people
Turkish, the official language of Turkey, comes in at number 4. Additionally, it is widely spoken throughout the Mediterranean, particularly in Macedonia, Greece, and Serbia, and it has co-official status in Cyprus. Those new to Europe might be shocked to realize that Germany likewise has a huge populace of Turkish speakers — around 1.3 million individuals, as a matter of fact!
Obviously, Turkey and the Turkish language are unique culturally because they are part of both European and Asian social customs. Istanbul, a city that is half European and half Asian, is unrivaled for memorable vacations!
#5 Italian – 65 million people
La dolce vita is well known among the 65 million native Italian speakers who live in Europe. Italian is, of course, the official language of Italy; however, it is also a co-official language of Switzerland, where it is the third most spoken language, after German and French, and of Vatican City, the Roman Catholic Church’s city-state (conveniently located in a landlocked area between Rome, Italy, and Vatican City). Learning Italian is a must if you want to live the authentic Italian lifestyle on your travels!
#6 English – 63 million people
You needed to realize this was coming, isn’t that so? There are approximately 63 million native English speakers in Europe. About a third of older Europeans can speak English as a second language, and nearly half of people between the ages of 15 and 35 are fluent in the language. That makes a total of 450 million people who can speak English in the EU!
Having said that, some academics speculate that the political realities of Brexit may eventually weaken the English dominance on the old continent. English continues to be the most used language in Europe. When we consider the widespread use of English as a language for international business communication, this should not come as a surprise.
#7 Spanish – 47 million people
Spain has been coveted as one of the best travel destinations in Europe for a number of years, especially by Europeans looking for a warm and relaxing summer vacation. This is a good reason to begin learning this language.
Also, did you know that Spanish is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn? When one leaves Europe, Spanish prestige rises even further: Spanish is the second most widely spoken native language in the world, with over 500 million native speakers worldwide, according to Ethnologue.com. 20 countries declare it as an official language.
#8 Polish – 36 million people
Although Polish is not as well known as the other languages on this list, Polish is spoken widely in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Belarus, and Ukraine. Polish is spoken by nearly 6% of the European population as a first, second, or third language.
#9 Ukrainian – 27 million people
There are 27 million native Ukrainian speakers, the majority of whom are located in Europe. This language is also spoken in Poland, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, and Lithuania. Certain individuals believe Ukrainian is commonly coherent with Russian. Because this language is related to Croatian, Bulgarian, Polish, Slovakian, Belarusian, and Czech, they are wrong to believe this.
#10 Dutch – 22 million people
Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands, but Belgium also recognizes it as a co-official language. While 60% of the population of Belgium speaks Dutch, the majority of speakers are from the Netherlands.
The Dutch language uses a lot of Germanic words. As a result, it has borrowed more German words than English words. It is a curious fact that the Afrikaans languages and Dutch are mutually understandable.
In Europe, approximately 22 million (© WorldData.info) people speak Dutch. Belgium and the Netherlands are home to the most of native speakers of Dutch.
#11 Romanian – 16 million people
Around 16 million people in Europe speak Romanian as their native language, which is an Eastern Romance language. Romanian is mostly spoken in Moldova, Transnistria, and Romania. The cities of Transylvania are ideal for those who enjoy gothic architecture and castles. On the other hand, if you prefer the great outdoors, Romania’s Bucegi Mountains and Bigăr Waterfall are worth your time.
#12 Greece – 13.5 million people
Greece uses Greek as its official language. In Southeast Europe, it goes by the name Hellas. Cyprus and Greece are home to approximately 13.5 million speakers of Greek. Additionally, this language is spoken by native Greek speakers in Albania, Turkey, and Italy. It is essential to note that 12% of the English language is derived from Greek. Particularly the words that begin with “ph” started from the Greek language.
#13 Hungarian – 13 million people
The official language of Hungary is Hungarian. This is the language that is spoken by the majority of Hungarians. Not only are these speakers from Hungary, but also from Slovakia and Romania. It is essential to keep in mind that learning Hungarian is one of the most challenging languages. This is due to the fact that it has 26 distinct cases and intricate grammar structures.
#14 Czech – 10.7 million people
Czech is another European language that is widely spoken. Because it is such a concentrated language, Czech speakers cannot be found outside of the Czech Republic. It and the Slovakian language are both understandable. As a result, Czech and Slovakian people can easily communicate with one another. Due to the abundance of vowel-free words in Czech, learning the language can be challenging.
#15 Portuguese – 10 million people
Due to formal Portuguese colonies, Portuguese is not only one of the most popular languages in Europe but also one of the most popular languages worldwide. You will be surprised to learn that only 5% of native speakers are from Portugal; therefore, it is easy to comprehend that there are 10 million speakers of Portuguese throughout all of Europe. As a result, Europeans learn Portuguese with a great deal of enthusiasm.
#16 Swedish – 9.7 million people
Sweden’s national language is Swedish. Moreover, it is Finland’s official language. Before World War II, the Swedish language was spoken in Latvia and Estonia. However, it was not as widely spoken. Swedish is an easy-to-learn version of one of the most important Nordic languages.
#17 Serbian – 7 million people
It is Serbia’s official language. People in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Croatia also speak Serbian. The fact that Serbian is written in two distinct writing systems is one interesting aspect of the language. Cyrillic alphabets are used in formal official documents, while Latin alphabets are used in informal ones.
#18 Bulgarian – 6 million people
This Language belongs to the Slavic family of languages. Most of the native speakers are from Bulgaria. You can also find Bulgarian communities residing in Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and Greece. It is mutually intelligible with Croatian, Slovenian, and Macedonian languages. People think that only the Russian language is written with Cyrillic alphabets. They are wrong. Serbian, Ukrainian, and Slavic languages are also written using Cyrillic alphabets.
#19 Danish – 5.5 million people
Denmark’s official language is Danish. Danish is taught in schools in Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland, in addition to Denmark. It can be understood by both Norwegian and Swedish speakers. Danish has two genders, like other languages. However, the gender of the noun is typically neutral.
#20 Finnish – 5.4 million people
The majority of Finland’s 5.4 million native Finns can be found speaking the language. However, there are numerous communities worldwide that speak Finnish. They can be found in Estonia, Sweden, Brazil, and the United States.
There are probably a few Finnish bands that you know if you like heavy metal. Metalheads all over the world almost exclusively speak Finnish. If heavy metal isn’t really your thing, you might like the sauna, another Finnish tradition.
#21 Norwegian – 5.3 million people
On the map, Norway and Finland are close to each other, and on this list, they are right next to each other! However, Norwegian-speaking communities exist not only in Scandinavia but also around the world.
In terms of language, the term “Norwegian” is actually somewhat misleading. Actually, it’s a group of languages. Bokmål, Nynorsk, Riksmal, and Hognorsk are among the various Norwegian languages.
#22 Slovak – 5.2 million people
There are approximately 5.2 million native speakers of Slovak, which is comparable to Norwegian. Slovak-speaking communities exist in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, and Romania, in addition to Slovakia. The Slovak alphabet has 46 different letters, including accents. One of Europe’s largest alphabets is this one!
#23 Croatian – 5 million people
Did you know that Latin was Croatia’s official language until 1874? Then the Croatian government adopted the Croatian language and made it official. The majority of Croatian speakers are natives. On the other hand, there are communities that speak Croatian in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania, Montenegro, and Serbia. There are numerous dialects of Croatian spoken. Subsequently, it is very hard to realize this language.
#24 Catalan – 4 million people
After Spanish, of course, Catalan is one of Spain’s most spoken languages. Catalan is recognized as a distinct language from Spanish—that is, it is not a Spanish dialect. Although they are both Western Romance languages, their roots are distinct. Catalan comes from Gallo-Romance, which includes French, while Spanish comes from Iberian-Romance, which includes Portuguese. You can Catalan native speakers in the Catalonia district in Spain, as well as Andorra, France, and Italy.
Origin of the Major Languages in Europe
In order to better understand the top European languages, it is important to have a brief introduction of the history of each language:
- Romance languages (Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian) are all derived from Latin, which was the language of the Roman Empire;
- Germanic languages (German, Dutch, English, Swedish, and Danish) are all descended from Proto-Germanic, a language spoken by Germanic tribes in central Europe prior to their migration to other parts of Europe.
- Slavic languages (Russian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, and Ukrainian) are all descended from Proto-Slavic, which was spoken by Slavic tribes in eastern Europe before their migration to other parts of Europe.
FAQs About Most Spoken Languages in Europe
What is The Most Spoken Language in Europe?
Russian is the most spoken language in Europe, which may come as a surprise to many. It is still widely used in many eastern European countries such as Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Lithuania. The language was taught in schools during the Soviet era, and now it is the official language of Russia and Belarus.
Due to the fact that only about 5% of Russians are able to speak English, it is highly recommended that travelers to Russia acquire some level of language proficiency.
What is The Oldest Language in Europe?
One of the oldest languages in Western Europe is Euskara, or Basque. It is the only ancient Indo-European language that has survived independently for centuries. While all others have become terminated. As a result, its origin is still a source of mystery. In 1979, it was made a co-official language of Spain’s Basque country. This language is spoken by approximately 750,000 native Basque speakers. They are the last leftovers of antiquated old Europe.
How Many Official Languages Are There in Europe?
The number of official languages in Europe is 24. Here they are in alphabetical order:
How Many Languages Are Spoken in Europe?
The brief answer is… 200! That probably won’t seem like many, contrasted with certain mainlands. There are 1,500 to 2,000 languages spoken in Africa, for instance.
What languages do they speak in Europe? Well, it’s hard to name it all, but here are some interesting facts for the Europeans:
- 54% of people are bilingual. This implies that they can address you in another dialect that isn’t their first language;
- 25% of people in Europe are trilingual, able to communicate fluently in three different languages;
- 10% of Europeans speak four languages!
Therefore, it is not surprising that so many European-born translators and linguists are proficient in translating and interpreting into multiple languages.
Europe is extremely culturally and linguistically diverse, thanks to the variety of distinct languages and rich historical heritage. Knowing the most common languages in Europe will be very helpful, if you are traveling to Europe or running a business with a plan to enter the European market.