34 of the Most Spoken Languages in Europe (2022): Facts and Figures
This article shows you the most spoken languages in Europe. There are up to 200 different languages spoken on the continent, and we decided to take a look at 34 of the most common ones.
Europe is a continent full of diversity, both culturally and linguistically. Traveling between the countries can show you just how broad this diversity actually is, too. That’s what makes Europe one of the biggest destinations for tourists, students and academics, and professionals in the world.
Speaking one (or more) of the languages on this list can open doors to millions of people, new personal and professional opportunities, and more. Some of the languages also made the list of the most spoken languages in the world!
Take a look below at some interesting facts about each language and also check out some of the best ways to learn each one.
To determine what the most spoken languages in Europe are, we pulled data from a variety of sources. Most of the figures come from Ethnologue, and other sources include the UK Census and various government bodies throughout Europe. For a more complete list of the languages spoken in Europe, you can read this article.
The table below shows 34 of the most spoken languages in Europe by number of native speakers.
|Language||Number of Native Speakers|
The Russian language has about 160 million native speakers. It is the official language of 4 different countries (Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan). It’s also commonly spoken in former Soviet countries like Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, and Ukraine.
In addition to being one of the most spoken languages on Earth, it’s also the language of space! Astronauts have to learn Russian before launching into space because the International Space Station uses both Russian and English.
If you want to learn the language, you can check out the best apps to learn Russian.
The second most spoken language in Europe is German. There are around 97 million native German speakers. They mostly come from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, but you can also find some in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Lichtenstein.
Even though it’s the second most spoken language in Europe, German is actually the most spoken language in the European Union (EU). You’d be surprised how much German you already know if you speak English – they share about 60% of their vocabulary!
To start learning it, you can check out these apps to learn German.
French is the next language on the list and it has around 71.5 million native speakers. Close to 20% of people in the European Union speak French as a native or second language. French is also the second most-taught language in the world behind English.
The language shares about 45% of its vocabulary with English, although the grammar and pronunciation are pretty different. If you learn French, you’ll be able to talk with people in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Monaco.
This list of the best apps to learn French can help you start speaking today.
Italian is the fourth language on the list and there are around 65 million native speakers. It’s the official language of Italy, San Marino, and the Vatican City (along with Latin). There are also quite a few Italian speakers scattered around the globe, including 700,000 in the United States.
An interesting fact about the Italian language is that it only has 21 letters. You won’t see any Italian words with J, K, W, X and Y. You may also notice people speaking different dialects of the language throughout Italy. Sometimes the dialects are so different that native speakers can’t even understand each other!
If you want to start learning the language, you can check out this list of apps to learn Italian.
While there are only 63 million native English speakers in Europe, there are over 1 billion in the world. That’s because English is the most spoken language in the world. 63 million is still quite a bit in Europe though. You’ll mostly find native English speakers in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
English is one of the fastest growing languages in terms of vocabulary, too. Hundreds of new words find their way into the official dictionaries every year. While it may be easy to learn new vocabulary, pronouncing it is another matter in English. For example, there are 10 different ways to pronounce the letter combination “ough”!
To learn more, you can take a look at the best apps to learn English.
Most native Spanish speakers come from the Americas, but there’s still an astounding 47 million of them in Europe. Not surprisingly, most native Spanish speakers in Europe live in Spain.
You may be surprised to learn that quite a few live in neighboring countries like France and Portugal though. In fact, almost 10% of France’s population speaks Spanish as a native language.
If you want to learn it, you can read through these apps to learn Spanish.
There are around 38.5 million native Polish speakers. Most of them come from Poland, but you can also find native speakers in the Czech Republic, Belarus, Ukraine, and other nearby countries.
English and Polish share a few of the same words, but they’re mostly all related to food. Examples include kielbasa (a sausage) and pierogies (a type of dumpling). Polish also has some similarities to other Slavic languages, like Serbian, Russian, and Ukrainian.
You can check out these Polish learning apps to start studying the language today.
There are around 32.6 million native Ukrainian speakers. While the majority of them live in Ukraine, you can also hear Ukrainian in Kazakhstan, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, and Slovakia.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Ukrainian is that it’s closely related to Russian. It’s actually more related to Belarusian, Czech, Slovakian, Polish, Croatian, and Bulgarian. Most of these are also some of the most spoken languages in Europe!
Take a look at some of the best apps to learn Ukrainian if you want to pick up some new vocab.
Romanian is the next language on the list with about 24 million native speakers. Although you may native speakers only come from Romania, that’s not true. Romanian is also the official language of Moldova (sometimes called Moldovan).
It’s a romance language, which means it shares common roots with Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French. You may be surprised how much Romanian you understand if you’ve learned another romance language!
Dutch follows closely behind Romanian in terms of native speakers. There are around 22 million native Dutch speakers, and most of them come from the Netherlands and Belgium. Outside of Europe, Dutch is also the official language of Aruba, Curaçao, and St. Maarten.
It’s a Germanic language, which means it’s pretty closely related to English and German. It’s also somewhat (although not very) mutually-intelligible with Afrikaans, the language of South Africa.
A lot of apps can help you learn it, but I think these are the best apps to learn Dutch.
There are just over 15.7 million native Turkish speakers, making it the 11th language on this list. Although most of Turkey is not part of geographical Europe, 3% of its land is. And around 20% of the country’s population lives in that little part. That’s why I decided to include it on this list of the most spoken languages in Europe.
The Turkish language has a long history, and languages like Arabic and Persian have influenced it a lot. In fact, before 1928, Turkish used the Arabic alphabet instead of the Latin alphabet.
If you want to start learning the language, you can pick one of these Turkish learning apps.
Greek has around 13.5 million native speakers, and most of them come from Greece and Cyprus. You can also find communities of native Greek speakers in countries like Albania, Turkey, and Italy.
Around 12% of the English language has Greek roots, especially in mathematics, astronomy, and biology. A fun fact – almost every English word that starts with “ph” has Greek origins!
To start learning it, you can check out these apps to learn Greek.
Hungarian closely follows Greek in terms of native speakers. There are around 13 million native Hungarian speakers throughout Europe. You’ll find most of them in Hungary, but also in Slovakia and Romania.
Hungarian is one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world. This is due to its 26 different cases and insanely complex grammar. Learning it as a non-native speaker is definitely not for the faint of heart!
After Hungarian comes Swedish with just over 11 million native speakers. Most native speakers come from Sweden, but Swedish is actually a national language of Finland, too. People also spoke Swedish in parts of Estonia and Latvia before World War II, but it’s not nearly as common anymore.
Swedish is an interesting language because the modern way of speaking it has only existed for 500 years. Before that, Danish had a huge influence on it. Even today, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian share a lot of similarities.
Check out the best apps to learn Swedish to start learning it today!
Czech is the next European language on the list and it has around 10.6 million native speakers. It’s the official language of the Czech Republic, and that’s where most native Czech speakers come from. In fact, it’s one of the most concentrated languages on this list because there aren’t really many other areas that speak it outside of the Czech Republic.
It’s very closely related to Slovakian though. They’re actually similar enough that speakers of both can easily understand each other. It can be difficult to learn if you don’t already speak Slovak though. There are several Czech words that don’t have any vowels!
There are around 10 million native Portuguese speakers in Europe, mainly in Portugal. It’s also one of the most spoken languages in the world due to Portugal’s former colonies. Outside of Portugal, you can find native Portuguese speakers through South America and Africa.
You may be surprised to learn that only 5% of native Portuguese speakers actually come from Portugal. That’s still enough to make it one of the most spoken languages in Europe though. It’s also one of the fastest-growing languages in Europe, so a lot of people are learning it as a foreign language.
If you want to start learning it yourself, you can take a look at these apps to learn Portuguese.
The next language on the list is Serbian, which has around 9 million native speakers. Most native speakers come from Serbia, where it’s the official language. You can also find native Serbian-speaking communities in Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina too.
Serbian is a particularly interesting language because it’s the only language in Europe that uses two different writing systems. You’ll find that more official documents use the Cyrillic alphabet while more informal writing uses the Latin alphabet.
The Bulgarian language has around 7.8 million native speakers, whom you can mostly find in Bulgaria. There are also native Bulgarian communities in Greece, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine though. Bulgarian is closely related to the Slovenian, Croatian, and Macedonian languages.
Even though Russian is the most popular language that uses the Cyrillic alphabet, two Bulgarians actually developed it. Other languages like Ukrainian, Serbian, and other Slavic languages also still use Cyrillic today.
Croatian is the next language on the list, and there are approximately 5.6 million native speakers. Most of them come from Croatian, but there are also Croatian-speaking communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania.
Latin used to be the official language in Croatia, but the government adopted Croatian in 1847. There are a lot of different dialects of Croatian today, which can make it a little difficult to learn. It’s worth it though – Croatian swear words are hilarious!
We’ve already talked about Danish a little bit and how it relates to Swedish. There are about 5.5 million native Danish speakers though, so it’s worth taking a look at on its own. Danish is the official language of Denmark, but it’s also taught in schools in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland.
It’s very similar to both Swedish and Norwegian. You can also create compound words by adding a bunch of single words together, similar to German. The language also has two gender, but they aren’t similar to the genders you’ll find in languages like French and Spanish. In Danish, the noun genders are common and neutral.
Around 5.4 million people speak Finnish as their native language, and you’ll find most of them in Finland. There are quite a few Finnish-speaking communities around the world though. You can find them in countries like Brazil, the United States, Estonia, and Sweden.
If you’re into heavy metal music, you probably know a few Finnish bands. Finnish is pretty much the de facto language for metalheads around the world. If heavy metal isn’t really your thing, you may like another staple of Finnish culture – the sauna.
Norway and Finland are close to each other on the map, and they’re also right next to each other on this list! There are around 5.2 million native Norwegian speakers. You can find communities that speak Norwegian throughout Scandinavia though, and also around the world.
The term “Norwegian” is actually a little misleading when it comes to language. It’s actually a collection of languages. Some of the different Norwegian languages are Bokmål, Nynorsk, Riksmal, and Hognorsk.
If you want to learn a few words and phrases, take a look at the best apps to learn Norwegian.
Slovak has a similar number of native speakers as Norwegian, around 5.2 million. Most of them come from Slovakia, but there are also Slovak-speaking communities in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, and Romania.
Including accents, there are 46 different letters in the Slovak alphabet. It’s one of the biggest alphabets in all of Europe!
Catalan is one of the most popular languages in Spain (after Spanish, of course). There are around 4 million native Catalan speakers. You can find them in the Catalonia region in Spain, as well as Andorra, France, and Italy.
The Catalan language has a very deep political history. Past governments have banned and repressed the language. Today, you’ll find that Catalan speakers are very proud of their language. Even if you only know a few words, you’ll bring a smile to their faces!
The Lithuanian language has around 3 million native speakers. Most of them come from, you guessed it, Lithuania. There are also Lithuanian-speaking populations in Belarus, Latvia, and Poland though.
It’s a fascinating language with a storied past. For example, you can tell if a woman is married by her last name. And most Lithuanian names are related to nature. You may also find it interesting that a lot of Lithuanian words are similar to Sanskrit!
The Bosnian language has around 2.5 million native speakers and is one of the three official languages of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The other two official languages are Serbian and Croatian. It’s a South Slavic language and shares some common traits with those two, as well as Montenegrin and Slovene.
Since the fall of the Yugoslavian Republic, the Bosnian language has transformed somewhat rapidly. There are a lot of unique linguistic and cultural aspects of the language that make it fascinating to learn.
The Galician region of Spain is the home of the Galician language. There are around 2.4 million native Galician speakers in the region. Some also live across the Portuguese border.
It’s a common misconception that Galician is a dialect of Spanish. It’s not. In fact, Galician is an official language of the region alongside Spanish.
Slovene is sometimes also called Slovenian. There are around 2.1 million native speakers of the language, and they mostly come from Slovenia as well as parts of Austria and Italy.
It’s the oldest written Slavic language and there are around 46 different dialects. It’s also one of the few languages that still uses the “dual” grammatical number. This means the language has singular, dual (for exactly two nouns), and plural forms.
The Latvian language, or Lettish, has 1.75 million native speakers. Most of them are in Latvia. The language itself is related to Russian, too. In fact, the only language more closely related to Russian than Latvian is Lithuanian.
The standard Latvian alphabet has 33 different letters, and there are three major dialects of the language. The language also has quite a few loan words from other languages, mainly German, Russian, and English.
There are almost 1.2 million native Estonian speakers in the world. It’s related to Finnish, and it has two major dialects: Northern and Southern.
Estonia has the highest literacy rate in the world – around 99.8%! Most of the population also speaks a foreign language. The most common foreign languages in the country are English, Finnish, German, Russian, and Swedish.
The Welsh language has over 500,000 native speakers today, most of them coming from Wales. You may be surprised to learn that there’s also a Welsh colony in Argentina, Y Wladfa.
There’s a lot of press saying the Welsh language is dying, but that’s really not true. It’s actually one of the fastest-growing languages on the Duolingo app in the UK. The Welsh anthem has also become popular due to the success of its athletic teams.
The Icelandic language has around 330,000 native speakers. Most of them come from Iceland, but you can also find some Icelandic speakers in other Scandinavian countries or scattered around the globe.
Icelandic was originally an oral storytelling language, but started using Latin letters in the 12th century. It’s an inflected language, which is one of the reasons it’s so difficult to learn. There are words to modify nouns for a variety of situations, like article, gender, voice, case, number, and aspect.
There are just under a quarter of a million native Irish speakers. It’s an official language of Ireland, and it’s also a recognized minority language in Northern Ireland. It’s not necessarily one of the most spoken languages in Europe, but it’s still a popular language to learn around the world.
Students in Ireland complain about how difficult the language is to learn, but it’s not nearly as difficult as English. For example, Irish has 11 irregular verbs, but English has over 370!
Hopefully you learned a thing or two by reading through this list of the most spoken languages in Europe. The diverse linguistic landscape in Europe is full of history. It’s so interesting to learn about how each language developed and how they are related to each other. Learning any of the languages on this list will broaden your horizons and open doors to new people and places.
To start learning a language, you can check out this list of the best language learning apps.