Posted date: 2011-12-03
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I have been watching a lot of soccer lately. My son posited that Spanish spoken outside Spain was somehow non-standard. I told him that by most measures, the "real" Spanish ought to be that spoken in Mexico. Mexico does, after all, have the highest Spanish-speaking population of any country. It was the first empire conquered by Spain and it lies between Spain and the other Hispanophone countries of the New World.
That made me think of the some other major world languages. Where does each Mother Country sit among the speakers of its tongue?
Chinese is spoken significantly only in a couple of small Southeast Asian countries outside of China.
English, on the other hand, is spoken over quite a swath of the planet's surface:
United States 267444149
United Kingdom 59600000
Spanish holds sway over a less diverse but still appreciable group:
United States 35468501
I will skip some Hindic languages. Mostly this is because these languages are restricted to the immediate vicinity of South Asia. I couldn't similarly exclude Chinese, as it is the most spoken first language in the world. But I also don't know any Hindi. And I'm a jerk.
Democratic Republic of the Congo 60800000
Côte d'Ivoire 12740000
Also, Portuguese is spoken by Brazil, then Portugal. It is interesting that the great colonizers of the world mostly play second (at best) fiddle to former colonies in terms of their "share" of the language.