List of languages by total number of speakers

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These are lists of languages by the number of first and second language speakers. However, particularly because of large uncertainties in estimating the number of secondary speakers, all such lists should be used with caution. In particular, the lists below should be seen as tentative.

Ethnologue and other current estimates[edit]

No Language Total number[1] (mill) L1 speakers (mill) L2 speakers (mill) Countries Other current estimates
1 Mandarin[2]
官话
1026 848 175  China,  Taiwan,  Singapore 1365 million[3]
2 English[4] 336 335 41  United Kingdom,  Ireland,  Canada,  United States,  Australia,  New Zealand,  Commonwealth of Nations,  Philippines 1500 mill. (375 mill. L1 + 375 mill. L2 + 750 mill. FL)[5]
3 Spanish[6]
Español
466 406 60  Spain,  Mexico,  Union of South American Nations 528 mill. (457 mill. natively + 51 mill. with limited knowledge + 20 mill. FL)[7]
4 Hindi[8]
हिन्दी
380 260 120  India 490 mill. [9]
5 Arabic[10]
العربية
353.5 206 246  Arab League 293 million.[11] 422 million (in Arab-speaking countries of all Arabic varieties)[12] Among the 246 million L2 speakers of Arabic, 100.5 million do not have adequate education in Standard Arabic.
6 Russian[13]
Русский
272 162 110  Russia 277 mill.,[14] 260 mill.[15]
7 Bengali[16]
বাংলা
250 193 57  Bangladesh,  India
8 Portuguese[17]
Português
217 202 15  Portugal,  Brazil,  Cape Verde,  Angola,  Mozambique 240 million[18]
9 Indonesian
Bahasa Indonesia
163 23 140  Indonesia 268 million[19]
10 Swahili[20]
Kiswahili
140 100 40  Tanzania,  Uganda,  Kenya
11 Japanese[21]
日本語
123 122 1  Japan
12 French[22]
Francais
118.5 68.5 50  France,  Canada ( Quebec),   Switzerland,  Belgium,  Luxembourg,  Monaco 220 million[23] (120 mill. L1 and L2 + 100 mill. FL)[24]
13 German[25]
Deutsch
111.8 83.8 28  Germany,  Austria,   Switzerland,  Liechtenstein 169 million (89 mill. L1[26] + 80 mill.L2[27])
14 Filipino 96.6 64 36.6  Philippines
15 Urdu[28]
اُردُو
104 63.4 36.6  Pakistan,  India
16 Italian[29]
Italiano
85 65 20  Italy,  San Marino,   Switzerland,   Vatican City 187 million (62 mill. L1 + 125 mill. L2)[30][31]
16 Javanese[32]
ꦧꦱꦗꦮ
85 85  Indonesia
18 Telugu[33]
తెలుగు
79 74 5  India
19 Wu[34]
吳語
吴语
77.2 77.2 0  China 90 million[35]
20 Tamil[36]
தமிழ்
78 70 8  India,  Sri Lanka
21 Marathi[37]
मराठी
74.8 71.8 3  India
22 Turkish[38]
Türkçe
73.2 70 3.2  Turkey
23 Vietnamese[39]
Tiếng Việt
67.8  Vietnam
24 Korean[40]
한국어/조선말
66.4  North Korea,  South Korea
25 Western Punjabi[41]
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ
نجابی
62.6  India,  Pakistan
26 Cantonese[42]
粤语
粵語
62.2  China,  Hong Kong 70 million[35]
27 Persian[43]
فارسی
56.6  Iran,  Afghanistan
28 Kannada[44]
ಕನ್ನಡ
56.1 50 6.1  India

George H. J. Weber's estimate (1997)[edit]

In an article published in December 1997, Weber posted estimates of primary and secondary speakers (this only includes the main land). Adding these, it is possible to obtain estimates for total speakers. However, since only graphs and not numerical figures are listed, readers are referred to his article.[45]

George H. J. Weber's report on the number of total speakers of the top languages.[46]

Language Native speakers Secondary speakers Total
1. Chinese 1,100 million 20 mill. 1,120 mill.
2. English 330 mill. 150 mill. 480 mill.
3. Spanish 300 mill. 20 mill. 320 mill.
4. Russian 160 mill. 125 mill. 285 mill.
5. French 75 mill. 190 mill. 265 mill.
6. Hindi/Urdu 250 mill. 250 mill.
7. Arabic 200 mill. 21 mill. 221 mill.
8. Portuguese 160 mill. 28 mill. 188 mill.
9. Bengali 185 mill. 185 mill.
10. Japanese 125 mill. 8 mill. 133 mill.
11. Punjabi 130 mill. 130 mill.
12. Sindhi 130 mill. 130 mill.
13. German 100 mill. 9 mill. 109 mill.

Criticisms of Weber's list[edit]

Weber's list fails to mention Indonesian/Malay, which other sources list as a top 10 language.[19] Additionally, Weber's list uses data collected between the early 1980s and mid 1990s. Weber states that his list does not need to be updated because "[t]he number of speakers of all the top ten languages have gone up in the last quarter century but relative to each other, the situation among the top ten remains unchanged."[45] Weber does not provide any evidence to support this claim. With the rise in access to the internet, whose content is led by English,[47] and because increased exposure to languages increases one's ability to use that language even if the exposure is virtual,[48] it is possible that the number of second language speakers of English has increased faster than that of other top languages.

Estimates by language[edit]

English estimates (total number of speakers)[edit]

Totaling about 1.5 billion or 1.8 billion speakers.[49][50] English is the primary language of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and various Caribbean and Pacific island nations; it is also an official language of Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Singapore and many sub-Saharan African countries. It is the most widely spoken language in the world, and the most widely taught foreign language.[51][52]

Indonesian/Malay estimates (total number of speakers)[edit]

Totaling about 268 million speakers,[19] Indonesian/Malay is unusual, as it is sometimes listed as having a relatively small number of native speakers. However, it is the sole official language of Indonesia, which has a population of 237 million people. In Indonesia, schooling is compulsory and is in the Indonesian language (Indonesia has a 92% literacy rate), and the percentage of Indonesians who speak the Indonesian language is close to 100%. It is also the official language of Malaysia, with a population of over 27 million. Counting the populations of Indonesia, Malaysia, plus speakers in Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore, and southern Thailand gives an estimate of 268 million people, making it one of the top ten most widely spoken languages in the world in terms of total number of speakers. Some sources rate it as the sixth most widely spoken language in the world.[19] However, despite this, it is often inexplicably absent from many lists of the world's most widely-spoken languages, such as George H. J. Weber's list.

Chinese estimations[edit]

Most statistics count the native speakers of Chinese dialects. However, with Chinese investments in developing countries including many African countries, people in these countries have started to learn Chinese. Chinese is also increasing in number as a second or third language in developed countries.[53]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ M. Paul Lewis, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig, eds. (2013). Summary by language size, Ethnologue, 17th edition.
  2. ^ Standard Chineses at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  3. ^ jessica thomson. "The Amazing World of Chinese Translation - Business and Finance Articles". Searcharticles.net. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  4. ^ English at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  5. ^ "FAQ's The English Language". Britishcouncil.org. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  6. ^ Spanish at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  7. ^ According to an Instituto Cervantes 2013 report, there are 528 millon Spanish speakers, including speakers with limited knowledge, or students of the language: eldiae.es
  8. ^ Hindi at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  9. ^ "The 30 Most Spoken Languages in the World". KryssTal. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  10. ^ Standard Arabic at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  11. ^ "Världens 100 största språk 2010" [The world's 100 largest languages in 2010]. Nationalencyklopedin. 2010. Retrieved 12 February 2014.  (Swedish)
  12. ^ "World Arabic Language Day". UNESCO. 18 December 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  13. ^ Russian at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  14. ^ "The 30 Most Spoken Languages in the World". KryssTal. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  15. ^ "Число русскоговорящих в мире за последние 20 лет снизилось более чем на 100 миллионов человек". Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
  16. ^ Bengali reference at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  17. ^ Portuguese reference at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  18. ^ "Somos 240 milhões de falantes >". TVI24. 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  19. ^ a b c d "How many people speak Indonesian?". Indonesian-online.com. Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  20. ^ Swahili language
  21. ^ Japanese reference at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  22. ^ French reference at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  23. ^ "La langue française dans le monde 2010" (PDF). p. 6. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  24. ^ http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/IMG/pdf/FR_la_promotion_du_francais_dans_le_monde_cle4136a1.pdf
  25. ^ German reference at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  26. ^ 89 million natively speakers Nationalencyklopedin, 2010
  27. ^ 80 million secondary speakers (National Geographic Collegiate Atlas of the World. Willard, Ohio: R.R Donnelley & Sons Company. April 2006. pp. 257–299. ISBN Regular:0-7922-3662-9, 978-0-7922-3662-7. Deluxe: 0-7922-7976-X, 978-0-7922-7976-1).
  28. ^ Urdu at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  29. ^ Italian at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  30. ^ The Italian language in the digital age (2012)
  31. ^ "Italian (BA)". Concordia.ca. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  32. ^ Javanese at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  33. ^ Telugu at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  34. ^ Wu at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  35. ^ a b searcharticles.net. The Amazing World of Chinese Translation (Jessica Thomson)
  36. ^ Tamil at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  37. ^ Marathi at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  38. ^ Turkish at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  39. ^ Vietnamese at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  40. ^ Korean at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  41. ^ Western Punjabi at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  42. ^ Cantonese at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  43. ^ Persian at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  44. ^ kannada at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  45. ^ a b "The World's 10 most influential Languages". Andaman.org. Retrieved 2014-03-21. 
  46. ^ "Most Widely Spoken Languages". .ignatius.edu. 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  47. ^ "Usage of content languages for websites". Web technology surveys. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  48. ^ "Internet Resources and Second Language Acquisition: An Evaluation of Virtual Immersion". Onlinelibrary.wiley.com. 2008-12-31. Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  49. ^ "Future of English". The British Council. Retrieved 2011-08-24.  (page 10)
  50. ^ "World-Wide English". eHistLing. Universität Basel. Archived from the original on 2009-11-22. Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  51. ^ "English language". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  52. ^ "Number Of English Speaking People". Number Of. 2009-12-09. Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  53. ^ "Chinese Rising in Language Popularity". Nypress.com. 2011-03-23. Retrieved 2012-10-20. 

External links[edit]