Being bilingual or multilingual comes with many benefits, from improved cognitive abilities to greater cultural awareness, understanding, and creativity. But just how many people in the world can speak more than one language in 2022? And which members of society are most likely to do so?
To find out, we conducted a survey asking 2,000 UK adults how many languages they speak fluently, other than their mother tongue. We also conducted an analysis of Google searches to determine which languages are most sought after in terms of learning in each US state. We combined this with further research into global language use statistics to bring you all of the most up-to-date facts and figures on the topic of bilingualism and multilingualism in 2022.
- There are approximately 3.3 billion bilingual people worldwide, accounting for 43% of the population.
- 36% of UK adults are bilingual. That’s over 24 million people.
- Spanish is the most popular second language to learn in the US.
- More searches are made in California for terms related to learning a language than any other US state.
- More young people (aged 16-24) are bilingual than any other age group in the UK.
- Belfast and Brighton have more bilingual speakers than any other UK city.
- Indonesia is the largest bilingual country in the world being home to more than 200 million bilingual individuals.
What does bilingual mean?
Bilingualism or being bilingual means to be able to speak two languages fluently. The word originates from the Latin ‘bi’, meaning ‘having two’, and ‘lingua’, meaning tongue. But what is a mother tongue? Well, the term mother tongue refers to the language which a person has grown up speaking from early childhood.
Throughout this article we’ll also mention multilingualism or being multilingual. This refers to the ability to understand and use more than two languages fluently.
What percentage of people are bilingual in 2022?
As many language communities are still yet to be studied, it’s difficult to say exactly how many people in the world speak two languages fluently. However, current estimates predict that around 43% of people are bilingual, with a further 17% being multilingual.
This means that more than half of the world’s population can speak more than one language fluently.
But how do bilingualism rates differ from country to country? To find how many people in the UK are bilingual, we conducted a survey using the market research company Censuswide to ask 2,000 UK adults:
How many languages, if any, do you speak fluently (not including your first language)?
- 0 – Other than my first language, I don’t speak any other languages fluently
- 5+ (please specify)
How many people are bilingual in the UK?
Our survey of 2,000 UK adults was conducted in October 2021 and found that:
- Over a third (36%) of UK adults can speak more than one language fluently. This means that there are around 24.5 million bilingual adults in the UK.
- 17.5% are bilingual, so can fluently speak 2 languages.
- And 6.5% of people in the UK are multilingual, as they can speak 3 or more languages fluently.
- 1 in 20 people say they can speak 3 languages fluently (5%).
- Whilst 1.4% say they can fluently speak 4 languages.
- And 0.1% say they’re able to speak 5 or more languages fluently!
Is bilingualism more common in men or women?
Many linguists have noted similarities and differences between the way in which different genders use language. But who is more likely to speak another language fluently? Men or women*?
Well, our survey of 2,000 UK adults revealed that they’re both just as likely as one other to speak a second language! The survey found a similar number of men and women are bilingual, as 18% of men and 17.2% of women in the United Kingdom say they can speak a second language fluently.
*The survey did not provide respondents with any other option than ‘male’ or ‘female’. This limits the data as it may have meant that some respondents were not represented in the way in which they would usually identify.
Which age group is most likely to be bilingual?
The older we are, the longer we have lived, so the more likely we are to have travelled, read and learned more languages, right? Well, our survey found that this may not be the case. In fact:
- More young people are bilingual than any other age group, as almost a quarter of those aged 16-24 say they can speak two languages fluently (24.5%).
- Those aged 35-44 are the second most likely to be able to speak two languages, as 18.5% of people in this age category say they are bilingual.
- The least likely age group to speak more than one language are those aged 55 and over, as just 15% of people this age say they can speak two languages fluently.
Multilingualism by age
So it’s clear that far more young people in the UK are bilingual. But which age group is most likely to be multilingual (able to speak more than 2 languages fluently)? To find out, we took a closer look at the demographic breakdowns of our survey and found that:
- 16-24 year olds are by far the most likely to be able to speak multiple different languages, as more than a third of people in this age group can speak more than two languages.
- Again those aged 55+ are the least likely to be multilingual, with just 5% of people over 55 saying they’re able to speak more than two languages fluently.
Which UK city has the highest proportion of bilingual speakers?
Are there more bilingual and multilingual people in major cities? Or do more rural areas have a higher proportion?
Our survey found that:
- Belfast and Brighton have more bilingual speakers than any other city in the UK, as a quarter of people in these cities can speak two languages fluently.
- Cardiff also has one of the highest proportions of bilingual people in the UK, with 21.5% of people being bilingual.
- Interestingly though, when looking at the proportion of people who are both bilingual and multilingual, London takes top spot. Nearly half of the population of London can speak at least one other language (49.5%).
How many people are bilingual in the US?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 21.6% of people in the US speak a language other than English at home. That’s 1 in every 5 adults.
It’s important to note, however, that this may be an inaccurate estimate of the number of bilingual people in the US. This is because some individuals may speak other languages fluently but may not use them at home.
Which second languages are most popular in the US?
There are a variety of different ways in which a person can learn a second language. They may have grown up around a speaker of that language, learned it at school or even decided to get a tutor or teach themself the language as an adult.
To find out a little more about language learning preferences of US adults in 2022, we conducted an analysis of search volumes in each state for various terms centred around language learning. To do this we used the online search analysis tool Keyword Finder, which enabled us to obtain average monthly search volumes for the 20 most widely spoken languages in the world, proceeded by the word ‘learn’ (eg. ‘learn Spanish’, ‘learn German’ etc).
Our analysis found that:
- Spanish is the most popular second language to learn in the US, with ‘learn Spanish’ being searched for online 75,300 times a month!
- English is the second most sought after language when it comes to learning, with an average of 24,800 searches being carried out online each month for the term ‘learn English’.
- Japanese is also a popular language amongst those wanting to learn, being searched for online approximately 20,600 times every month in the US.
As you can see from the graph:
- Korean and French are also highly sought after when it comes to learning another language, with the terms ‘learn Korean’ and ‘learn French’ receiving 18,000 and 13,200 monthly searches respectively.
- Chinese, Russian and German are also popular choices amongst those in the US
- As are Arabic, Portuguese and Hindi.
Which US states want to learn second languages the most?
Although the rate of bilingualism in the US does appear to be less than the global average, it seems that more and more people are expressing an interest in learning another language, especially since the coronavirus lockdown.
As you can see from the graph below, searches for phrases like ‘learn korean’ peaked significantly at the start of lockdown, and have continued to be higher than they previously were.
Search volumes overtime for ‘learn Korean’ in the US: Google Trends (Feb 2022)
The states that conduct the highest volume of searches for terms structured in the following format ‘learn X’ (with X being one of the world’s 20 most widely spoken languages) are as follows:
|Rank||State||Average monthly searches for ‘Learn X’|
Search volumes extracted from the tool Keyword Finder
What are the benefits of being bilingual?
There are a wide range of benefits of being bilingual or multilingual as either an adult or a child! Here are just a few:
- Studies have found that children who have learned a second language at an early age have been found to have better memory and attention levels than monolingual learners.
- Bilingualism has also been linked to delayed onset of Alzheimer’s as numerous studies have found that bilinguals are more resilient in dealing with neurodegeneration than monolinguals.
- Numerous studies have found a link between bilingualism and creativity, with research suggesting that bilinguals’ enhanced executive functioning and experience with multiple cultures contribute to their creativity level.
Professor of Applied Linguistics at Lancaster University, Panos Athanasopoulos says:
“Learning a language is beneficial because you’re not just learning another set of grammar rules and vocabulary. You are also learning a new way of thinking, it is a window into another culture, and often a mirror into yours. And the process of learning and using two languages is also beneficial for the brain, because it keeps it active for longer – many studies show that the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s may be delayed in bilinguals by up to 5 years.”
Bilingualism facts and figures of 2022
Still hungry for more fun bilingualism statistics? Check these out!
- There are approximately 33 billion bilingual people worldwide. That’s nearly half the population.
- Did you know that Indonesia is the largest bilingual country in the world? And one of the most multilingual too? Many people in Indonesia become bilingual at an early age, learning Indonesian, Javanese and English and it’s estimated that the country has a bilingual population of at least 200 million.
- A common myth is that if you don’t learn a language before a certain age, you’ll never be able to. However, although it’s much more difficult to learn a language as an adult compared with as a child, it is still possible to retrain your brain to learn second languages as an adult!
We hope you enjoyed these bilingualism statistics, facts and figures. If you’re thinking about learning a new language or skill, head over to our website to find the best online tutor for you.
What percentage of people are bilingual in 2022? As many language communities are still yet to be studied, it's difficult to say exactly how many people in the world speak two languages fluently. However, current estimates predict that around 43% of people are bilingual, with a further 17% being multilingual.What percentage of the world is bilingual 2022? ›
Bilingual: A person using or able to use two languages especially with equal fluency (43% of world population) Trilingual: A person speaking three languages fluently (13% of world population)What is the statistic about bilingualism? ›
Language experts claim that about one-half of people worldwide are bilingual. Around 20% of American residents speak two or more languages. Approximately 5 million students in the United States are English Language Learners. At 14.7%, the largest percentage of ELLs comes from urban areas.What country has the highest percentage of bilinguals? ›
Indonesia is the largest bilingual country in the world, with approximately 200 million people speak more than one language. Indonesians speak about 746 different languages. Javanese has the most users in terms of native speakers (about 80 million).What percentage of Americans speak a foreign language? ›
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that more than 60 million residents over the age of five years old, or about 20% of the U.S. population, speak a language other than English at home.What percentage of the US is bilingual 2022? ›
How many people are bilingual in the US? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 21.6% of people in the US speak a language other than English at home. That's 1 in every 5 adults.What percentage of the UK is bilingual? ›
38% of Britons speak at least one foreign language, 18% speak two and only 6% of the population speak three or more.Is bilingualism on the rise? ›
Bilingualism is common and is on the rise in many parts of the world, with perhaps one in three people being bilingual or multilingual (Wei, 2000).Is bilingualism rising? ›
Increasing Demand for Bilingual & Multilingual Jobs
There is no denying it—for the past several years there has been a steady growth in the demand for bilingual and multilingual jobs. This demand more than doubled between 2010 and 2015, and since 2020, there has been a 30% increase in bilingual remote jobs.
English – 245 million (78.5%) Spanish – 41.3 million (13.2%) Chinese (including Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien and all other varieties) – 3.40 million (1.1%) Tagalog (including Filipino) – 1.72 million (0.5%)
El Paso, Texas is the most bilingual city in the country, followed by Los Angeles, California and San Jose, California. Detroit, Michigan is the least bilingual city in the country, followed by Indianapolis, Indiana and Nashville, Tennessee.What is the most bilingual state in the US? ›
One state (Hawai'i) is officially bilingual, and three states (Louisiana, Maine, and New Mexico) have facto bilingual policies. Languages other than English spoken in the U.S.Is the United States mostly bilingual? ›
The United States isn't a nation that's known for its bilingualism; it's just not that common. English, the world's most widely spoken language, reigns supreme. About 78% of Americans say they only speak English at home—that's 241 million people. In addition, 30 states have English as their only official language.Why are so few Americans bilingual? ›
Call it the consequence of geographic isolation, a history of economic and cultural hegemony, or a culture of rugged independence, but for better or for worse, America has a foreign language education deficit. As of 2001, 26 percent of American adults were capable of holding a conversation in another language.What percentage of U.S. citizens speak English as their first language? ›
English is the most common language spoken at home in the United States, with 78 percent of the U.S. population speaking only English.What percentage of the U.S. is fluent in English? ›
What percentage of the US speaks English? According to the latest census data, over 91% of people in the US speak English very well. 8.2% of people do not speak English “very well”, though this statistic doesn't mean that they are completely non-English speakers.Is bilingualism increasing in the US? ›
Bilingualism in the United States is on the rise (see Post 2.5) and it is also very diverse, pairing English with Native American languages, older colonial languages, recent immigration languages, American Sign Language, and so on.What is the most important language in the world 2022? ›
Online language tool Babbel reports that English is the most spoken language in the world, with a number of speakers totaling more than 1.4 billion in 2022, according to Statistic & Data. This combines both native and non-native speakers.What is the current status of bilingual education in the US? ›
When we consider there are nearly 40 million elementary grade students in the United States, this means that no more than 3 percent of U.S. students in the elementary grades are receiving some form of bilingual education.What country is officially bilingual in the UK? ›
Both the English and Welsh languages have official, but not always equal, status in Wales. English has de facto official status everywhere, whereas Welsh has limited, but still considerable, official, de jure, status in only the public service, the judiciary, and elsewhere as prescribed in legislation.
- English – 58 million speakers. Over 98% of the UK population speak English, that equates to over 58 million speakers. ...
- Scots – 1.5 million speakers. The second most of all languages spoken in the UK is Scots. ...
- Welsh – 560,000 speakers. ...
- Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati – c.
Around 1 in 13 people (8%, 4.2 million) in England and Wales had a main language other than English (English or Welsh in Wales).Is bilingualism on steep rise in the US? ›
Back in 1980, the percentage of bilinguals was 10.68% whereas in 2018, the last ACS survey for which we have data, it was 20.55%, that is 63 million inhabitants. The percentage has practically doubled in 38 years.What are the main factors leading to bilingualism? ›
- Choice. Of course, sometimes becoming bilingual is purely motivated by an interest in languages. ...
- Geography. The choice is a relatively uncommon reason for becoming bilingual, however. ...
- Migration. ...
- Religious or Professional Reasons.
The US has far more bilinguals than any EU nation, three times as many as second-ranked Germany, and five times that of France. The US is in the first position, and by a wide margin. With a population of about 331 million, the US is much larger than the largest EU country, which is Germany.What percentage of Europeans are bilingual? ›
Overall, Europeans are pretty good at languages: about 65 per cent of the continent's population can speak at least one language other than their native tongue. As a comparison, only about 20 per cent of adults in the US are able to.Is bilingualism an advantage in today's world? ›
Being bilingual can improve a person's multitasking skills, attention control, problem solving and creativity as it promotes outside-the-box thinking. It can also help improve your memory – handy when shopping and remembering people's names!What is the fastest growing language in the US? ›
In percentage terms, the proportion of the US population that speaks Spanish has grown from 5% to 13% over the same period – hence it being crowned the fastest growing language in the US.How many languages are dying in the US? ›
Right now, 9 languages a year, or one every 40 days, cease to be spoken. By 2080, the rate will rise to 16 languages per year. By the middle of the next century, we will be losing our linguistic heritage at the rate of 26 languages each year—one every two weeks.What are the top 3 languages spoken in the USA? ›
Based on the 2019 data, 52% of people who spoke Chinese and 57% of those who spoke Vietnamese at home in the United States spoke English “less than very well,” compared to the other three common languages: Spanish 39%, Tagalog 30%, and Arabic 35% (Figure 4).
Some continents have more languages than others
Not all continents are equally diverse in the number of spoken languages. Whereas Asia leads the statistics with 2,301 languages, Africa follows closely with 2,138. There are about 1,300 languages in the Pacific, and 1,064 in South and North America.
Many Americans dive into a new language during their university years, but what are the most common languages taught in US schools? From Chinese to Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Arabic, and American Sign Language, students learn a wide range of new languages during their university years.What is the most common type of bilingual education in the United States? ›
Two-Way or Dual Language Immersion Bilingual Education. These programs are intended to assist English and non-English speaking students learn to speak and write in a second language. In the United States, most students enrolled in dual language immersion programs will be a 50/50 mix of English and Spanish speakers.What is the number 1 language in Americas? ›
1. English. With approximately 334 million speakers, English easily comes in at number one on the list of most spoken languages in North America.What is the third most spoken language in the United States? ›
- The Most Spoken Languages In The U.S.
- English – 254 million native speakers. ...
- Spanish – 43,200,000 native speakers. ...
- Chinese (including Cantonese, Mandarin and other varieties) – 2,900,000 native speakers. ...
- Tagalog – 1,610,000 native speakers.
Only about 20 percent of Americans can converse in two or more languages. It is alarming to have this many monolingual individuals in one country when half of the world is at least bilingual. America is often talked about as a leading country, but the lack of language learning is embarrassing.What are at least three benefits of being bilingual in the US? ›
- Positive Effects on the Brain. Studies show that being bilingual has many cognitive benefits. ...
- Educational Advantage. Many studies show that those who speak a second language are more likely to be less distracted and more focused on tasks. ...
- Economic Edge. ...
- Health Benefits. ...
- Open-Minded Outlook.
Proximity and geography play huge factors in encouraging bilingualism. Countries in the European Union are extremely close to each other. You can take a train for an hour and be in a different country that speaks a different language.Is the second most widely non English language spoken in the United States? ›
Tagalog is the second most commonly spoken language in American households (after English/Spanish) with 1.7 million speakers.How many Americans Cannot speak English? ›
25 Million Americans Don't Speak English: Translators and Interpreters Essential in Pandemic - American Translators Association (ATA)
Spanish has always been the most widely spoken language after English, with about 37.5 million speakers. And over the last 20 years, the number of Spanish speakers has grown by 60%. After English, Spanish is the most common language in 43 U.S. States.Which US state speaks the best English? ›
West Virginia has the highest rate, with over 97 percent of households speaking English at home. German remains a common third language for many states, with over a million speakers nationwide.Which country speaks the most English percentage? ›
|United States of America||North America||82.1 %|
|United Kingdom||Northern Europe||97.3 %|
|Canada||North America||58.7 %|
|Australia||Australia/New Zealand||76.8 %|
If you shift the definition strictly to native speakers, Babbel reports that Chinese – a designation including Mandarin along with a number of other dialects is the winning language, with 1.3 billion native speakers.What is the most popular language in the world 2022? ›
What is the most spoken language in the world? Online language tool Babbel reports that English is the most spoken language in the world, with a number of speakers totaling more than 1.4 billion in 2022, according to Statistic & Data. This combines both native and non-native speakers.How many people speak English as a second language 2022? ›
In 2022, there were around 1.5 billion people worldwide who spoke English either natively or as a second language, slightly more than the 1.1 billion Mandarin Chinese speakers at the time of survey.How many languages are spoken in the world 2022? ›
There are currently around 7117 languages in the world.What are the fastest growing languages in USA 2022? ›
Fastest Growing Languages in U.S, Telugu Surprises!
- Telugu (150%)
- Arabic (62%)
- Hindi (61%)
- Urdu (45%)
- Chinese (35%)
- Gujarati (31%).
- English – 1,121 million speakers. ...
- Mandarin Chinese – 1,107 million speakers. ...
- Hindi – 698 million speakers. ...
- Spanish – 512 million speakers. ...
- French – 284 million speakers. ...
- Arabic – 273 million speakers. ...
- Bengali – 265 million inhabitants. ...
- Russian – 258 million speakers.
Ongota: 10 Speakers
Ongota is spoken in Southwest Ethiopia by 10 elders.
Aramaic is best known as the language Jesus spoke. It is a Semitic language originating in the middle Euphrates. In 800-600 BC it spread from there to Syria and Mesopotamia. The oldest preserved inscriptions are from this period and written in Old Aramaic.What is the fastest growing language today? ›
And this number is still growing today! Mandarin is spoken by more than 1.2 billion people, including Cantonese and other Chinese dialects, primarily in China and other parts of the world with Chinese communities.What is the #1 language? ›
1. English (1,452 million speakers) According to Ethnologue, English is the most-spoken language in the world including native and non-native speakers. Like Latin or Greek at the time, English has become the world's common language.Which country speaks the best English in the world 2022? ›
And those who speak it, speak it very well as Sweden has been recognized by the language proficiency company 'EF English First' for best proficiency of English in the world.
The United Kingdom remains the largest English-speaking country in Europe. The United States and India have the most total English speakers, with 283 million and 246 million, respectively. There are also 108 million in Pakistan, 79 million in Nigeria, and 64 million in the Philippines.What is the most spoken language 2023? ›
Top 10 Most Spoken First Languages in 2023
Currently, these are the 10 most spoken languages in the world in 2023, sorted by number of mother language speakers: Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Bengali, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Yue chinese, Vietnamese.
English is by far the most prominent spoken language in the U.S., with over 239 million English-speaking people across the country. In fact, English is commonly mistaken as the official language of the United States, which doesn't actually have an official language on record.What is going to be the most spoken language in 2050? ›
Mandarin. Mandarin is likely to be the most spoken language in 2050 because of its vast number of speakers. The economic influence of China will also prove vital for the continued use and spread of Chinese languages around the world.