English: Most Understood, Not Most Spoken in Europe

Pollion Team

Europe is a continent renowned for its rich linguistic diversity, with over 200 languages spoken across its borders. However, amidst this tapestry of tongues, some languages stand out as more widely used than others. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the most common languages spoken in Europe, exploring their origins, geographic reach, and cultural significance.

The Top 10 Most Spoken Languages in Europe

1. Russian

Kicking off our list is Russian, the most widely spoken language in Europe, with approximately 140 million native speakers. Originating from the East Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family, Russian is the official language of Russia and Belarus and is widely used in many Eastern European countries.

Russian employs the Cyrillic alphabet uniquely, setting it apart from most European languages that use the Latin script. This linguistic quirk presents a challenge for those seeking to learn Russian, yet it hasn’t hindered the language’s widespread use across the continent.

2. German

With around 95 million native speakers, German secures the second spot on our list. German holds significant sway across Central and Western Europe as the sole official language of Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein, and a co-official language in Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

Beyond its native speakers, German is widely understood as a second or third language in many European countries, solidifying its position as one of the most widely spoken languages on the continent.

3. French

French, the language of love and diplomacy, comes in third with approximately 80 million native speakers across Europe. As the official language of France and a co-official language in Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, French boasts a strong presence in Western and Central Europe.

Additionally, French’s global reach extends far beyond the continent, with nearly 30 countries worldwide claiming it as an official or administrative language. Within Europe itself, over 30% of inhabitants possess some knowledge of French, making it an invaluable asset for travellers and businesspeople alike.

4. English

While English may not be an official language in most European countries, its status as a global lingua franca has secured it a prominent position on our list. With around 60 million native speakers across Europe, primarily concentrated in the United Kingdom and Ireland, English is the most understood foreign language on the continent.

Moreover, the widespread use of English as a second language, particularly among younger generations, further cements its dominance in Europe. As the language of international business, education, and pop culture, English’s importance in Europe is undeniable.

5. Italian

The melodic Italian language, with its approximately 60 million native speakers, secures the fifth spot on our list. As the official language of Italy and Vatican City, and a co-official language in Switzerland and San Marino, Italian is deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of Southern Europe.

Beyond its native speakers, Italian holds significant appeal as a second language, with around 3% of Europeans proficient in the language. For those seeking to immerse themselves in the rich heritage of art, cuisine, and la dolce vita, a grasp of Italian is invaluable.

6. Spanish

With 43 million native speakers across Europe, Spanish firmly establishes itself as the sixth most spoken language on the continent. As the official language of Spain and a widely understood language in many parts of Europe, Spanish’s influence extends far beyond its borders.

Globally, Spanish is the second most natively spoken language, with over 470 million speakers worldwide. This widespread use, coupled with Spain’s allure as a popular travel destination, makes learning Spanish an attractive prospect for Europeans and visitors alike.

7. Polish

Entering the top ten is Polish, with approximately 36 million native speakers, predominantly concentrated in Poland. While not as widely spoken as some of the other languages on our list, Polish’s significance cannot be overlooked, as it is also used as a minority language in neighbouring countries like Czechia, Hungary, Belarus, and Ukraine.

8. Ukrainian

With 27 million native speakers, mostly residing in Ukraine, the Ukrainian language holds the eighth position on our list. Closely related to Russian, Ukrainian shares linguistic roots with its East Slavic counterpart, yet maintains its distinct identity and cultural heritage.

9. Dutch

The Dutch language, spoken natively by around 22 million Europeans, primarily in the Netherlands and Belgium, rounds out our top ten. Often praised for its relative ease of acquisition for English speakers, Dutch presents an accessible linguistic opportunity for those venturing into the heart of Western Europe.

10. Romanian

Romanian is narrowly securing the tenth spot, with approximately 23 million native speakers across Europe. As the official language of Romania and Moldova, Romanian holds a strong cultural and linguistic significance in Eastern Europe, carrying the legacy of its Romance roots.

Other Notable Languages

Beyond the top ten, Europe boasts a diverse array of languages, each with its own rich history and cultural significance. Turkish, spoken by millions across Turkey and the Mediterranean region, Greek, the language of ancient philosophers and modern-day Greece, and the various Scandinavian languages, including Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian, all contribute to Europe’s linguistic tapestry.

Additionally, languages like Catalan, spoken in parts of Spain and Andorra, and the Slavic languages, such as Czech, Slovak, and Serbo-Croatian, further exemplify the continent’s remarkable linguistic diversity.


Europe’s linguistic landscape is a vibrant mosaic, with languages intertwining and shaping the cultural identities of its nations. While some tongues, like Russian, German, and English, have established themselves as the most widely spoken, the continent’s true richness lies in its ability to embrace and celebrate its diverse linguistic heritage.

Whether you’re a traveller seeking to immerse yourself in local cultures, a businessperson navigating international markets, or simply a language enthusiast, understanding the most common languages spoken in Europe can open doors to new experiences, connections, and opportunities.

By exploring and appreciating the linguistic diversity of this remarkable continent, we not only broaden our horizons but also foster greater understanding and unity among its diverse peoples.

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Tags: Europe