×

Try A Free Online Course

Get It Now!

Average Rating: 4.7

​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages

jason-oxenham-ceo May 10, 2016, 11:55 pm
If you wanted to say hello to everyone on the planet, you'd probably need to learn around 7,000 languages. Fortunately, however, there's a better way to greet as many people on the globe as possible. By learning how to say "hello" in the world's 50 most spoken languages, you would be able to say hello to approximately 80% of the world's population. That's right, you could greet nearly 5.7 billion people!

Before we take a look at how to say hello in some of the world's most spoken languages, it's important to clarify that discovering exactly which languages are the most spoken is no easy task. Despite all of the information available, no sources seem to agree upon the total number of speakers since this information isn't readily available for many languages. Many sources offer information about the total number of native speakers by country, and don't take into account non-native language learners. That's why I opted for the information provided by SIL International's Ethnologue, an online publication  dedicated to researching the world's languages. The information included the approximate number of native speakers, and, as always, is an educated estimate.
Are you ready to learn how to say hi in the 50 most spoken languages in the world?

Let's take a trip around the world and learn how to greet 80% of the world's population:
  Language Countries with the Most speakers # Native Speakers "Hello"
1. Mandarin Chinese China 1.3 billion 你好 [nǐ hǎo] (informal)
您好 [nín hǎo] (formal)
2. Spanish Mexico, South America, Spain (31 total) 427 million Hola
3. English North America, Great Britain, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand (106 total) 339 million Hello/hi
4. Arabic Saudi Arabia, Egypt (58 total) 267 million [as-salām 'alaykum] السلام عليكم
(response) [wa 'alaykum as-salām] و عليكم السلام
(informal) [marḥaban] مرحبا
5. Hindi India 260 million नमस्ते [namaste]
नमस्कार [namaskār]
6. Portuguese Brazil, Portugal (12 total) 202 million Brazil: Oi
Portugal: Olá
7. Bengali Bangladesh 189 million হ্যালো [hyālō]
8. Russian Russian Federation (17 total) 171 million Здравствуйте [Zdravstvujte] (formal)
Привет [Privet] (informal)
9. Japanese Japan 128 million 今日は [konnichiwa]
おっす [ossu] (used between close male friends)
10. Lahnda/Punjabi Pakistan, India 117 million ਸਤਿ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਅਕਾਲ। / ست سِری اَکال [sat srī akāl]
ਨਮਸਕਾਰ / نمسکار [namaskar]
11. Javanese Indonesia 85 million Halo
12. Korean South Korea, North Korea 77 million 안녕하십니까 [annyeong-hasimnikka] (formal)
안녕하세요 [annyeonghaseyo] (informal)
안녕 [annyeong] (informal)
13. Wu Chinese
(Shanghainese)
China 77 million 侬好 [nóng hō]
大家好[dâka hō] (hello everybody)
14. German Germany, Austria, Switzerland, (26 total) 77 million Hallo
Guten Tag
Servus (used in Austria & Bavaria)
15. French Europe, Africa, Caribbean, Canada (53 total) 76 million Bonjour (formal)
Salut (informal)
16. Telugu India 74  million నమస్కారం [namaskārām]
17. Marathi India 72 million नमस्कार [namaskār]
18. Turkish Turkey (8 total) 71 million Merhaba
19. Urdu Pakistan, India 69 million [āssālam 'alaykum] السلام علیکم
(reply) [wālaikum assalām] وعليكم السلام
(informal) [salām] سلام
20. Vietnamese Vietnam 68 million chào bạn (informal)
Chào anh (addressing a male, formal)
Chào chị (addressing a female, formal)
chào em (younger male or female)
21. Tamil India (7 total) 68 million வணக்கம் [vaṇakkam] (male, formal)
வணக்க0 [vaṇakkã] (formal)
22. Cantonese Chinese China 66 million 你好 [néih hóu]
23. Italian Italy (13 total) 63 million Ciao [chow]
24. Persian (Farsi) Afghanistan, Iran (6 total) 61 million [dorood] درود
[salâm] سلام
25. Malay Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand (16 total) 61 million Selamat pagi (good morning)
Selamat petang (good afternoon)
Selamat malam (good night)
Assalamualaikum (used by Muslims)
26. Thai Thailand 60 million สวัสดี [sà-wàt-dee]
27. Min Nan Chinese China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines (7 total) 49 million 食飽未 [Chia̍h pá boeh?] (literally: Eaten full yet?)
28. Polish Poland 46 million Cześć (informal)
Dzień dobry (formal)
29. Gujarati India, Pakistan, Uganda, Zimbabwe (8 total) 46 million નમસ્તે [namaste]
30. Burmese Myanmar 42 million မဂႆလာပၝ [min-ga-la-ba]
31. Ukrainian Ukraine 39 million Вітаю [Vitayu] (formal)
Агов [Ahov] (informal)
32. Malayalam India 34 million നമസ്തെ [namaste]
നമസ്കാരം [namaskaram]
33. Hakka Chinese China, Indonesia, Malaysia (9 total) 34 million 你好 [ngi2 ho3]
 
34. Kannada India 34 million ನಮಸ್ತೆ [namaste]
ನಮಸ್ಕಾರ [namaskāra]
35. Oromo Ethiopia, Kenya 34 million akkam
36. Oriya India 31 million ନମସ୍କାର [namascara]
37. Pashto Afghanistan, Pakistan, India 31 million [khe chare] ښې چارې
[salaam) سلام
[as-salaamu' alaykum] السلام عايك
38. Berber Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Nigeria 31 million [Salam] مرحبا
39. Kurdish Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria 30 million Silaw/Silav (informal)
Roj baş (formal)
40. Amharic Ethiopia and Israel 28 million  ሰላም። [sälam] (informal)
 ታዲያስ። [tadyass] (informal)
ጤና ይስጥልኝ። [ṭenaisṭəlləň] (formal)
41. Sundanese Indonesia 27 million Halo (borrowed from Indonesian)
42. Nepali Nepal, India, Bhutan 26 million नमस्ते [namaste]
43. Romanian Romania, Moldova (7 total) 26 million Salut
Bună ziua (more formal)
44. Bhojpuri India, Mauritius, Nepal 25 million प्रणाम [prannam]
45. Tagalog The Phillippines 25 million Musta (informal)
Kumusta (formal)
("hello" and "hi" are also used)
46. Azeri Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey 24 million Salam
Salam əleyküm
Əleyküm salam (reply)
47. Maithili India, Nepal 24 million Pranam
48. Hausa Cameroon, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan (8 total) 24 million Sannu
Salama alaikum
-or-
A gaishai ka.
(reply) Amin. Alaikum salam
49. Yoruba Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Sierra Leon 23 million Ẹ n lẹ
50. Serbo-Croatian Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia (7 total) 21 million Здраво [Zdravo]
 

No Easy Greeting

A quick scan through all of the different ways to say "hello" reveals that a simple greeting is often more complicated than we English speakers imagine. Whether or not the greeting is formal or informal, masculine or feminine, and even the age or religion of the speakers involved can play a role in determining which greeting to use.

Languages reflect cultures and history, and we English speakers are a relatively informal, straightforward group of people. In many cultures, language reflects complex social hierarchies, norms and gender roles, and the best way to learn these languages is to respect and embrace these rules. It may not be easy, but learning a language and how to communicate with its native speakers provides countless benefits and helps you to understand a whole new way of seeing the world.

So what are you waiting for? Starting learning a new language today!
 
Research before you go, and learn a language. 
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
Alex-G44 May 11, 2016, 12:16 am
Anyway we can get some audio for these?
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
jason-oxenham-ceo May 11, 2016, 1:29 am
Hi Alex - Unfortunately with the way the blog is set up we can't currently add audio to blog posts. If there is a particular language that you are interested in then Google Translate should work well enough for that.
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
Homy-- May 11, 2016, 5:10 pm
That was very interesting. Some countries or language I have never heard of!
In Iran, where I come from, the widely used word is "salam". Like any Islamic country. But the Original Persian equivalent word is "dorood". Just for info ..
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
Steven-W15 May 12, 2016, 4:50 am
The same is true for Morocco. When I worked in Egypt a very long time ago though, it was relatively rare to hear "salaam" as a greeting; rather it was, "Sabaah el kheer", "Sabaah el noor", "Sabaah el ishta" (good morning, afternoon...) or simply "Ahlan" (welcome). It was also rare to see veils. Now people always greet each other with "salaam".
 
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
Dan-H24 May 12, 2016, 8:45 pm
While in China last fall, I learned exactly two words: nǐ hǎo which was helpful when meeting people, and ganbei, which generally translates as "cheers." I later learned another translation is "dry cup," which explains why they were always filling my glass with the 56% alcohol content "wine" they have there...
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
Steven-W15 May 14, 2016, 5:26 am
Ganbei. Good word. I've got it memorized. The other one with the funny squiggles looks too difficult. Why worry about "hello" when you have "dry cup" in your skill set? I am ready for China. 
 
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
Robert-C7 May 14, 2016, 9:12 pm
Those squiggly marks over the letters are tone markers.  Gānbēi is actually two high tones. They said that a lot at my wedding.
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
Steven-W15 May 17, 2016, 6:02 am
I call them squiggly marks to showcase my extensive vocabulary. Learning a tonal language must be incredibly difficult. And I've always wondered how one can sing in such a language.

Must have been an interesting wedding. I don't get invited to such classy events as the polite gānbēis get drowned out by raucous cries of dry cup...
 
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
Grant-K1 May 20, 2016, 7:33 am
Hey Jason, thanks for the info. BTW, it's Australia in the third row second column not Austria. It's a common mistake if you're not an Aussie but it does tend to get on an Australian's nerves when we see that. 
Oh another one I picked up on as well, well maybe a bit of an oversight more than a mistake...Canada is not among your list  who say "Hello or Hi (unless you're saying they're North American of course)

Regards, Grant


 
 
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
Dan-H24 May 20, 2016, 11:04 am
Grant: I am guessing that the Canadians will be just as annoyed at being lumped in with the US as you Aussies are at being mistaken for Austrians. Nothing against Austrians, but given the choice I will hang out with you Aussies any time...you have better accents and bigger beers.
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
jason-oxenham-ceo May 22, 2016, 7:34 pm
Hi Grant - Whoops! Coming from New Zealand you would have thought that I would have picked that one up! Anyway, it is now amended.
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
Grant-K1 May 23, 2016, 1:36 am
Hey thanks Jason, what about Canada?
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
jason-oxenham-ceo May 26, 2016, 2:19 am
Hi Grant - Canada is covered by being in North America!
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
Grant-K1 May 26, 2016, 4:56 am
Yeah it's funny. To me, Canada is another country. It is north of America. Not North America. You don't call Papua New Guinea "North Australia or South Indonesia"

 
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
Dan-H24 May 26, 2016, 10:46 am
Not only to you, Grant, but to geographers around the world. The United States, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and Greenland are countries on the continent of North America.

This is starting to remind me of the great Randy Newman song, Political Science.
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
natashawells3080 July 12, 2016, 6:22 pm
I actually knew ten of these greetings! Audio with it would be great if possible! This article was fun and informative...pardon my geek!
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages
David K July 19, 2016, 6:18 pm
Thanks for this great article. I'm surprised to see how many of the most common languages come from the  India, Pakestan, and Bangladesh region.  But I shouldn't be since there are about 1.5 billion plus people in that area.  For some reason I incorrectly thought they all spoke Hindi. 
I was also surprise out how many distinct languages there are in China.
​How to Say "Hello" in the World's Most Spoken Languages

Ask a question or a post a response

If you want to ask a question or post a response you need to be a member.

  • If you are already a member login here.

  • If you are not a member you can become one by taking the free Rocket Spanish trial here.

Over 1,200,000 people love Rocket Languages

Here's what Rocket Languages members have to say:

Andrei Freeman - Pennsylvania, USA

Andrei
Freeman

Pennsylvania, USA

Rudi Kopp - USA

Rudi
Kopp

USA

Carmen Franceschino - Pennsylvania, USA

Carmen
Franceschino

Pennsylvania, USA

Kelly Scali - Chicago, USA

Kelly
Scali

Chicago, USA

Mark Waddel - Auckland, NZ

Mark
Waddell

Auckland, NZ

William McGill - Florida, USA

William
McGill

Florida, USA

Probably the best language tool I've come across. Actually love it more than Rosetta Stone and Duolingo

Try our award-winning online Spanish course for FREE 受賞歴ありの英語学習ソフトウェアを無料でお試しください Pruebe nuestro galardonado software del idioma inglés GRATIS

(And see how easy it actually is to learn Spanish... even if you've tried and failed before) (そして英語学習がどれだけ簡単か、肌で感じてみてください…今までに失敗したことのある人でもそれが分かるでしょう) (Y vea qué tan fácil es en realidad aprender inglés… aún si lo ha intentado y fallado antes)