How to say “Happy New Year” in 12 of the world’s most spoken languages

An astounding 7,097 languages are spoken in the world today, according to a recent report by Ethnologue. However, only 23 languages account for most of the world’s population and up to 90% will be extinct by 2100. We took a look at the 12 most widely spoken languages in 2016 and found out how different cultures wish each other a happy new year:

1. English

Still the world’s lingua franca, English has 375 million native English speakers and a vast majority of one billion people speak it as a second language.

(Pictured above) On January 1st, fireworks are meant to drive away evil spirits and bring good luck. Image source

2. Mandarin Chinese

Boasting a total of 1.1 billion native Chinese speakers and 982 million non-natives, it’s no surprise Mandarin is named one of the languages of the future.

The dragon dance is performed to usher in good fortune. Image source


3. Hindi

Mostly influenced by the Sanskrit language, Hindi comes from the Persian word “Hind” that means “Land of the Indus River” and is one of India’s official languages.

Ugadi Pachadi is a traditional Hindu dish that symbolizes life as a mixture of the six universal emotions. Image source


4. Spanish

The second most studied language in the world, Spanish has 329 million native speakers and is projected to reach 600 million speakers by 2050.

The Spanish believe eating 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve can bring 12 months of good luck. Image source


5. Arabic

Spoken by 300 million people residing in the Arab League from Southwest Asia to Northwest Africa, Arabic is the official language in over 20 countries.

Ashura Day is a day of prayer and fasting on the 10th day of the Islamic New Year, which is based on the lunar calendar. Image source


6. Portuguese

Portuguese is the official language of eight countries: Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé e Príncipe, with over 235 million speakers.

Bolo Rei (King Cake) is traditionally eaten from 25th of December until the 6th of January. Image source


7. French

An official language in many international institutions, from the UN to the European Union to the Olympics Committee, it is estimated that French will be spoken by 750 million people by 2050.

In France, champagne has been associated with celebrations and royalty because of its golden color and bubbles that resemble jewels. Image source


8. Bengali

Bengali, or Bangla, is predominantly spoken in South Asia by over 230 million people from Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura.  

Women wear colorful traditional saris to celebrate Pohela Boishakh, the Bengali New Year. Image source


9. Russian

The most widely spoken of all Slavic languages, Russian is the official language in the Russian Federation and one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Fir trees are decorated by children on New Year’s Day in Russia. Image source


10. German

About 105 million people speak German as their mother tongue and it is the official language in seven countries in the European Union.

In Germany, people give four-leaf clovers to wish friends and loved ones good luck for the new year ahead. Image source


11. Japanese

One of the most difficult languages to learn, there are only one million people who speak Japanese as a second language and about 127 million native speakers.

Traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day, Osechi Ryori is an assortment of dishes with symbolic meanings, such as long life, wealth and happiness. Image source


12. Korean

With 78 million native speakers, Korean, also known as Kugo, is the official language of South Korea and North Korea, but also spoken in China, Japan and Russia.

The largest holiday in Korea, Seollal celebrates the Lunar New Year. Image source

If it’s not listed above, how do you say “Happy New Year” in your language? We’d love to learn more!


Jenie Gabriel

The author

Jenie Gabriel

Jenie creates and coordinates content for Gengo's marketing team. Originally from the Philippines, she was an advertising creative in Singapore before moving to Tokyo. In her spare time, you’ll find her wandering around the city or planning her next escapade.

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