More than one billion people on Earth speak Mandarin Chinese, but they all seem to be concentrated in China, as are the close to one billion that speak Hindi in India. And yes, millions speak Arabic, Russian, German, Portuguese, and Japanese as well.
However, the languages that seem to be pretty spread out across the globe and are to be found almost any and everywhere are: English, French, and Spanish. If you speak one of these tongues, you've already got a huge advantage over the rest of the population, due to the incredible influence and importance of these languages in everything from business, entertainment, to diplomacy issues. Interestingly enough, many of our place names in the U.S. are usually in these three languages, due to important historical colonial reasons.
Because of the rabid and golddigging Spaniards of the 16th century, great chunks of the world came under Spanish rule for more than 300 years, and their language now boasts some 400 million speakers worldwide. All across North and South America, Europe, certain parts of Africa and Asia, Spanish is an enormously popular language which exerts great influence due to its incredibly rich literary heritage and popular entertainment value. If you want to be a successful recording artist, you either sing in English, or Spanish I say! Even the United States of America, with its overwhelming English tradition, is now a major Spanish-speaking country, to the horror of purists and conservatives who now feel threatened by its popular growth. Brazil, the lone Portuguese-speaking South American country, has in recent years had to learn mandatory Spanish in school just to deal with all their neighbors. Sí amigo, el mundo de veras habla español: Yes friend, the world indeed does speak Spanish. The language of my family, many traditions, and of God himself (in my crazy mind); the language does hold a special sentimental place in my heart.
The proud and uppity French also colonized vast chunks of the world at one time, and now count some 270 million speakers of their proud tongue in Canada, Haiti, certainly throughout Europe, large areas of Africa, and some in Asia. A beautiful and gorgeous language indeed, but almost impossible to write, French was at one time the world's most important language for diplomacy and the educated elite. Its use as such has declined tremendously, but it still does retain some of its prestige and is the second most learned and studied language in the world. Glad I took four years in high school, and thanks to being so closely related to Spanish, I still remember lots of it. C'est la vie n'est-ce pas? Pleine de merde: That's life right? Full of shit.
Ah, but the granddaddy of them all, the language that now rules the world and has it firmly in its grip (but of course you say!), the language of Shakespeare, barely spoken by our President, and the one used in this and most blogs: that would be indeed, English. Out of the British Isles and heavily influenced by Latin, Greek, and French words, the Brits became the greediest people ever, taking over the world like no one ever before or since. The British Empire was the largest empire in human history and as such spread their royal tongue practically everywhere. Then came this little rebel called the USA, broke off from the UK, and went on to become the mightiest power on the globe, making English even more powerful than ever before. In entertainment, music, on the Internet, aviation, telecommunications, science, and diplomacy, English is now the world's greatest and most important language; which is why many English speakers become lazy to even learn other languages (why should they bother right?), when the world is desperately trying to learn theirs. Some 400 million native speakers, but a recent estimate claims about one billion total speakers, due to so many trying to learn it or speaking it somehow (even basically) all over the face of the Earth. English is found in the USA (of course), Canada, Belize, Jamaica, all over Europe, India, Africa, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, etc. The sun never truly did set on the British Empire now did it? The Queen must be proud.
In the end, all languages have value, regardless of the number of speakers of course.
Yes, even Klingon.