Use of Languages in the World: Use of Russian is Declining

Recently Russian MFA’s Ambassador on Special Assignments stated that the Russian language should receive the status of a second language in post-Soviet countries.

Though that scenario is still unrealistic in Armenia, the “Union of Informed Citizens” has prepared some information on distribution of different languages in the world.

Thus, Chinese is spoken by the greatest number of people in the world as a mother tongue. Then comes English, and Russian occupies the 6th position.

Mother Tongue By Population

Chinese 1,2 billion
English 500 million
Spanish 425 million
Arabic 300 million
Portuguese 230 million


However, as a second language, English has the most number of speakers and Chinese occupies the second position here.

Second or Foreign Language by Population  

English 1 billion
Chinese 300 million
French 195 million
Spanish 125 million
Arabic 120 million


In sum, in one way or another, around 1.5 billion people speak English and Chinese. Then comes Spanish with 550 million speakers. It is followed by Arabic (420 million), French (270 million), Portuguese (260 million): In one way or another, Russian is spoken by 220 million people.

Moreover, as Russian is spoken by elderly people in post-Soviet countries and younger generation learns other languages, it is predicted that the number of speakers of Russian as a mother tongue and second/foreign language will amount to less than 200 million. Meanwhile, the number of speakers of other aforementioned languages increases.

Russia’s position as a mother tongue is the weakest in the list of speakers by countries. Here Russian comes after English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, German, Dutch and even Serbian.

Mother Tongue by Countries

English 56 countries
French 29 countries
Arabic 24 countries
Spanish 20 countries
Portuguese 8 countries


The only criterion by which Russian appears in the top-5 list is list of second or foreign languages by countries. These are mainly post-Soviet countries where people speak Russian better than English. However, even in some of these countries (Baltic states, Azerbaijan and Georgia), the number of English speakers will soon exceed that of Russian speakers.

Second or Foreign Language by Countries

English 55 countries
French 14 countries
Russian 13 countries
Spanish 8 countries
Arabic 6 countries


          “Union of Informed Citizens”

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