What Are The 10 Most Spoken Languages in Europe

A map of the northern part of Europe.
15 May 2023

Europe is a home to many countries and cultures. It is a fascinating environment, where a lot of languages are spoken. Least to say is that almost all European countries have their own national language!

With 24 official languages and even 200 spoken languages, you may sometimes wonder “What language does Europe speak?”, “What languages does Europe speak?”, and “What languages are spoken in Europe?”

So, today we’re going to have a better look at what are the most common languages in Europe.

We will also look at the general history of the language families in Europe.

  • What languages do they speak in Europe?
  • What is the most spoken language in Europe?
  • Which language groups in Europe are the most popular?
  • What is the history of European languages?
  • What is the most dominant language in Western Europe?
  • Which language family dominates in Central and Eastern Europe?
  • What are the two major language groups in Western Europe?
  • What is the most widely spoken Germanic language in Europe?
  • What are the two main language groups in Western Europe?

If you want to know answers to these questions, be sure to read this article.

Hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of the most common languages spoken in Europe.

And even more so, why it’s always a good idea to be able to communicate in any of them!

A very old document written in an unknown language.

A Quick History of European Languages

European languages have a rich and diverse history that spans thousands of years. Throughout this period, the continent has witnessed significant linguistic changes and developments.

So, before discussing the most widely spoken language in Europe, let’s explore the main language groups in Europe.

The Emergence of Language Groups in Europe

The languages spoken in Europe today can be traced back to a few key language families.

So, what are the three main language families in Europe?

The most prominent of these are the Indo-European, Uralic, and Turkic language families.

Indo-European Languages:

The Indo-European language family is the largest and most widely spoken language group in Europe, encompassing languages like English, German, French, Spanish, and Russian.

These languages are believed to have evolved from a common ancestral language called Proto-Indo-European, spoken around 6,000 years ago.

Uralic Languages:

The Uralic language family is another significant language group in Europe, which includes languages like Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian.

These languages are believed to have originated from the Ural Mountains region and share a common ancestor known as Proto-Uralic.

Turkic Languages:

The Turkic language family is smaller in comparison to the Indo-European and Uralic families, but still plays a significant role in Europe’s linguistic landscape.

Languages like Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Tatar are part of this language group.

A person sitting in front of 2 large computer screens.

How Many Official Languages Are There in Europe?

In Europe, there is no single official language due to the continent’s rich linguistic diversity. However, within the European Union (EU), there are 24 official languages, reflecting the variety of cultures among its member states.

These languages play a crucial role in the EU’s functioning, as they ensure effective communication, promote cultural understanding, and uphold the principle of linguistic equality.

Outside the EU, individual European countries often have one or more official languages (for instance, Switzerland, Belgium, and Ireland), further contributing to the complex and diverse linguistic landscape of the continent.

Three people looking at the notebook. Hollywood-like scenery in the background.

What is The Most Spoken Language in Europe?

Let’s focus here on major languages spoken in Europe right now.

1. Russian language

So, what is the most spoken language in Europe?

It’s Russian, with over 100 million native speakers. Russian is an East Slavic language that forms part of the Indo-European language family.

It also makes it the most common native language in Europe.

As the official language of Russia, it’s also widely spoken in neighboring countries like Ukraine and Belarus.

Therefore, the Russian language holds a prominent position among the spoken languages in Europe.

About the russian language

In addition to being one of the most common languages in Europe, Russian has a global reach, with millions of speakers worldwide.

Its influence extends not only to the countries of the former Soviet Union, but also to communities around the world.

As an official language and most widely spoken native language in Europe of the United Nations, Russian plays a crucial role in international diplomacy and communication.

The written Russian language comes in a form of a cyrillic alphabet.

2. English

English is one of the most spoken European languages. It’s also one of the most widely understood languages in the world, thanks to its status as a lingua franca for international communication.

about the english language

With approximately 1.5 billion speakers worldwide, English is also the most widely spoken language in the world. It is also the most widely spoken Germanic language in Europe.

Although it is the native language of the United Kingdom and Ireland, English is also spoken as a second language by millions of people across the continent.

The English language is an integral part of the linguistic landscape in Europe. As a member of the West Germanic branch, it belongs to the Indo-European family, one of the largest language families in Europe.

Although it is not the most spoken language in Europe, it is the third most widely spoken language, with around 70 million native speakers.

English has a significant presence across various language groups in Europe and is considered the most used language in Europe for international communication.

Due to its global influence and widespread use, English has become the primary language in Europe for business, diplomacy, and travel.

3. German

With approximately 95 million native speakers, German ranks as the third most popular language in Europe. German is a West Germanic language and is spoken primarily in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Around 30 million people knows German as a second language.

About the german language

As one of the most common languages in Europe, it’s also used in neighboring countries and is one of the official languages of the European Union.

The German language is an essential part of the diverse tapestry of spoken languages in Europe.

German is a West Germanic language, which is a branch of the larger Indo-European language family.

As the official language of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, German has a strong presence in Central Europe.

It is also one of the most spoken languages in Europe, making it an important language for communication, business, and culture.

Additionally, German is an official language of the European Union and is spoken by many people in neighboring countries and around the world.

Its widespread use and influence contribute to its status as a significant language within the European linguistic landscape.

Two women talking to each other on a street.

4. French

French is the fourth most spoken language in Europe, with over 80 million native speakers.

French is also a very popular second language. Around 194.2 million people uses it as their secondary means of communication.

About the French language

The French language is a prominent and influential member of the spoken languages in Europe.

It belongs to the Romance language family, which is a branch of the larger Indo-European language family.

French serves as the official language of France, as well as Belgium, Switzerland, and several other countries outside Europe.

As one of the most spoken languages in Europe, it plays a vital role in culture, business, and diplomacy.

French is also an official language of the European Union and the United Nations, further solidifying its global significance.

The widespread use and historical influence of the French language make it an essential part of the European linguistic landscape.

5. Italian

Another Romance language, Italian is the fifth most popular language in Europe, with around 60 million native speakers.

About the Italian language

The Italian language is an important and culturally rich component of the spoken languages in Europe.

It is a Romance language, which is a branch of the larger Indo-European language family.

Italian is the official language of Italy and is also spoken in Switzerland, where it holds official status.

As one of the most spoken languages in Europe, Italian plays a significant role in the continent’s cultural and historical identity.

The language is renowned for its connection to the arts, particularly in music and literature, which have contributed to its global influence.

In Europe, Italian is not only spoken in Italy and Switzerland but also by minority communities in neighboring countries, highlighting its presence in the European linguistic landscape.

6. Spanish

Spanish is the sixth most spoken language in Europe, with about 47 million native speakers.

About the Spanish Language

As a Romance language, Spanish is an official language of Spain and has a significant number of speakers in other European countries due to immigration.

Outside of Europe, it’s a native language of, for instance, the inhabitants of Latin America.

The Spanish language is a vital and influential part of the spoken languages in Europe.

It is a Romance language, which is a branch of the larger Indo-European language family.

As one of the most spoken languages in Europe, Spanish holds an important position in European culture, business, and communication.

The Spanish language’s enduring impact and prominence make it a key component of the European linguistic landscape.

7. Polish

As the official language of Poland, Polish is spoken by approximately 40 million Europeans.

Polish is then the seventh most spoken language in Europe.

About the Polish Language

The Polish language is an integral and culturally significant part of the widely spoken languages in Europe.

It is a West Slavic language, which is a branch of the larger Indo-European language family.

As the official language of Poland, it holds a strong presence in the country and has an impact on the European linguistic landscape.

Polish is not only spoken in Poland but also by minority communities in neighboring countries and around the world, contributing to its global influence.

As one of the widely spoken languages in Europe, Polish plays a vital role in the continent’s cultural diversity and communication.

This Slavic language has a complex grammar system and a rich literary history, with Nobel Prize-winning authors such as Wisława Szymborska and Olga Tokarczuk among its prominent figures.

8. Ukrainian

Ukrainian, another Slavic language, is spoken by around 30 million people in Europe, primarily in Ukraine. It’s therefore the eight most popular language in Europe.

About the Ukrainian Language

The language shares similarities with Russian and Belarusian but has a distinct vocabulary and phonetics, as well as a unique literary tradition.

The Ukrainian language is an important element of Europe’s linguistic diversity.

While Ukrainian may not be among the most common languages in Europe, such as English, German, or French, it still holds significant cultural value, particularly in Eastern Europe.

As the primary language spoken in Ukraine, it is a key component of the region’s linguistic landscape.

Although Ukrainian is not the main language in Europe as a whole, it is essential to note the linguistic diversity that exists across the continent.

In summary, the Ukrainian language is an essential part of the European linguistic tapestry, particularly in Eastern Europe.

The continent’s rich linguistic diversity, encompassing various language families and groups, highlights the importance of each language in shaping Europe’s cultural identity.

A Dutch city during the spring.

9. Dutch

Dutch is the ninth most popular language in Europe, with around 25 million native speakers. It’s a West Germanic language, spoken primarily in the Netherlands and Belgium (where it is known as Flemish), and shares similarities with both English and German.

About the Dutch Language

The Dutch language, although not the dominant language in Europe, holds a significant position in the continent’s linguistic landscape.

While Dutch may not be the primary language in Europe, it is the official language of the Netherlands and Belgium, where it has a strong presence.

In these countries, Dutch serves as the main language for communication, business, and culture.

The most used language in Europe is English, which functions as the lingua franca for international communication, business, and diplomacy.

Although Dutch is not the dominant or most used language across the continent, it still plays a vital role in the European linguistic mosaic and contributes to the region’s cultural diversity.

It has a rich history of trade and exploration, which has influenced the Dutch language and culture.

10. Romanian

Rounding out the top 10 most popular languages in Europe is Romanian.

The Romanian language is an essential aspect of Europe’s linguistic diversity, even though it may not be among the most common languages spoken in Europe.

About the Romanian Language

As a Romance language, Romanian is closely related to languages like Italian, French, and Spanish, and is part of the larger Indo-European language family.

With approximately 24 million native speakers, Romanian ranks as the tenth most widely spoken language in Europe. It is the official language of Romania and Moldova, and also has a significant presence in communities across the continent.

Romanian belongs to one of the main language groups in Europe, the Romance languages, which is a branch of the Indo-European family.

This group includes other widely spoken languages like French, Italian, and Spanish, contributing to the rich tapestry of European languages.

While Romanian is not the main language in Europe, it plays a crucial role in the linguistic landscape of Eastern Europe.

Its unique history and cultural significance make it an important part of the continent’s linguistic heritage.

With Latin origins and Slavic influences, Romanian is known for its rich folklore and literary tradition, which includes prominent figures such as Mihai Eminescu and Mircea Eliade.

Two men walking through the street that is decorated with British flags.Two men walking through the street that is decorated with British flags.

Dominant language in Western Europe

Above, we listed the most widely spoken languages in Europe as a whole. Now, let’s have a look at the lingustic landscape more closely.

We’ll now list the most widely spoken languages in Western Europe.

What are the most widely spoken languages in Western Europe?

In Western Europe, several dominant languages belong to different language families, including the Western Romance and Eastern Romance languages.

The English Language

A Germanic language widely spoken in the United Kingdom and Ireland. English is also the lingua franca for international communication, business, and diplomacy.

English is also probably the most widely understood language in the world and the most dominant language in Western Europe.

The German Language

As mentioned earilier, it is a West Germanic language predominantly spoken in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. German is the second most spoken language in Europe and is one of the main languages of the European Union.

The French Language

A Western Romance language spoken mainly in France, Belgium, and Switzerland.

French is an official language of the European Union and has a strong global presence as an international language of diplomacy and commerce.

What are the two major language groups in Western Europe?

The two major language groups in Western Europe are the Germanic languages and the Romance languages.

These groups are both part of the larger Indo-European language family and are spoken by millions of people across the region.

The Germanic languages include English, German, and Dutch, while the Romance languages comprise French, Spanish, Italian, and others.

Which language family dominates in Central and Eastern Europe?

The Slavic language family dominates in Central and Eastern Europe.

This family is a significant branch of the larger Indo-European language family and comprises a diverse group of languages spoken by millions of people across the region.

The Slavic languages are further divided into three main subgroups: East Slavic, West Slavic, and South Slavic.

The East Slavic subgroup includes Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian, while the West Slavic subgroup comprises languages like Polish, Czech, and Slovak.

The South Slavic subgroup consists of languages such as Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, and Slovenian.

As the dominant language family in Central and Eastern Europe, the Slavic languages play a crucial role in shaping the linguistic and cultural landscape of the region.

A hand holding pages of a book.

Most spoken languages in Europe: Conclusion

So, in this article, we’ve managed to answer the following questions: “What languages do they speak in Europe?” or “What language does Europe speak?”.

Europe’s linguistic landscape is vast and diverse, with multiple language families contributing to its richness.

The EU has 24 official languages and there is an estimated amount of around 200 spoken languages in Europe as a whole.

From the most spoken language in Europe, English, to other common languages like German and French, there’s no shortage of linguistic variety.

As you travel across Europe, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the beauty of its cultures and languages – a true testament to the continent’s fascinating history and heritage.

All of the most spoken languages in Europe are supported by both Vasco Translator V4 and Vasco Translator M3.

It is really worth being able to communicate in all of them as they play an important role in, for instance, business, and they are really common when you travel.

In a nutshell:

Europe is a home to many cultures and languages. It has over 24 official languages and more than 200 spoken languages. Russian is the most spoken language in Europe, with over 100 million native speakers. English is the second most common language, with around 70 million native speakers. Other languages spoken in Europe include German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Ukrainian, Dutch, and Romanian. Each of these languages plays an important role in the linguistic landscape of Europe and contributes to the continent’s cultural identity. English is the most used language in Europe for international communication and business. Although some of these languages are not the most popular in Europe, they still hold significant cultural value, particularly in Eastern Europe. The European linguistic landscape is diverse and complex, highlighting the importance of each language in shaping Europe’s cultural identity.

FAQ:

What are the three main language families in Europe?

The three main language families in Europe are the Indo-European, Uralic, and Turkic language families.

How many official languages are there in the European Union?

The European Union recognizes 24 official languages.

What is the most widely spoken language in Europe?

The most widely spoken language in Europe is Russian.

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Robert Faber

Robert is an avid traveler and a fan of new technologies. He can cook well, but never has enough time to do so and he ends up complaining about most meals. A regular at the gym.

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