List of languages by total number of speakers

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For number by native speakers, see List of languages by number of native speakers.

A number of different scholars have compiled lists of languages by their number of speakers.

However, all such lists should be used with caution. First, it is difficult to define exactly what constitutes a language as opposed to a dialect. For example, Chinese is sometimes considered a single language and sometimes as a language family. Similarly, Hindi is considered sometime a single language or a family including Mewari, Chattisgarhi, Bhojpuri etc., but together with Urdu it also is often considered a single language Hindustani.

Second, there is no single criterion for how much knowledge is sufficient to be counted as a second-language speaker. For example, English has about 350 million native speakers but, depending on the boundary chosen, can be said to have as many as 2 billion speakers.[1]

Ethnologue (2015, 18th edition)[edit]

The following languages are listed as having 50 million or more native speakers in the 2015 edition of Ethnologue, a language reference published by SIL International.[2]

Language Family L1 speakers L2 speakers Total
Mandarin Sino-Tibetan,Chinese 850 million (2000) 3 million in China (no date) 1,030 million
total Chinese 1,200 million  ?  ?
English Indo-European, Germanic 340 million 510 million 840 million
Spanish Indo-European, Romance 400 million 90 million 490 million
Hindi Indo-European, Indo-Aryan, Hindustani (essentially same language as Urdu) 260 million (2001) 120 million in India (1999) 380 million
Russian Indo-European, Slavic 170 million (ca. 2010)  ?  ?
Portuguese Indo-European, Romance 200 million  ?  ?
Bengali Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 190 million (2001–2011) 20 million in Bangladesh (2011) 210 million
French Indo-European, Romance ca. 76 million (ca. 2012) 87 million (2007) 160 million
Urdu Indo-European, Indo-Aryan, Hindustani (essentially same language as Hindi) 64 million (1998–2001) 94 million in Pakistan (1999) 160 million
Japanese Japonic 130 million 130 million
German Indo-European, Germanic 78 million (ca. 2012) 8 million in Germany (2012)  ?
Javanese Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian 84 million (2000) 84 million
Telugu Dravidian 74 million (2001) 5 million in India (no date) 80 million
Tamil Dravidian 69 million (2001) 8 million in India (no date) 77 million
Korean language isolate 77 million (2008–2010) 77 million
Wu (Shanghainese) Sino-Tibetan, Chinese 77 million (1984) 77 million
Marathi Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 72 million (2001) 3 million in India (no date) 75 million
Turkish Altaic 71 million (2006) 0.3 million in Turkey 71 million
Vietnamese Austroasiatic, Viet–Muong 68 million (1999) 68 million
Italian Indo-European, Romance 64 million (1977–2012)  ?  ?
Western Punjabi Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 63 million (2000)  ?  ?
total Lahnda 89 million (no date)  ?  ?
Yue (Cantonese) Sino-Tibetan, Chinese 62 million (1984–2006)
Egyptian Arabic Afro-Asiatic, Semitic 55 million (2006)  ?  ?
total Arabic 240 million (no date) 250 million (1999) 490 million
total Malay 60 million (no date) 150 210 million
total Persian 57 million (2011)  ?  ?

The distinction Ethnologue uses for Eastern and Western Panjabi is the national border, which does not correspond to the linguistic distinction. Hindi and Urdu are essentially a single language; however, 100 million non-Hindustani speakers are included under "Hindi", which is therefore not a single language. Hausa has 25 million L1 total and 15 million L2 in Nigeria, and so approaches our limit of 50 million. Coastal Swahili has 15 million L1 in Tanzania (2012) and "probably over 80% of rural" Tanzania as L2, not counting Kenya or the 10 million L2 speakers of Congo Swahili (1999), so it also approaches our limit.

George H. J. Weber (1997)[edit]

In an article published in December 1997, with data collected from the early 1990s, Weber estimated primary and secondary speakers. However, only graphs were published, so numerical figures need to be measured, and readers are referred to his article.[3] Figures here have been rounded off to the nearest 10 million if over 20 million, and to the nearest 5 million if under.

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

Language Native speakers Secondary speakers Total
Chinese 1,100 million 15 million 1,115 million
English 330 million 150 million 480 million
Spanish 300 million 15 million 315 million
Russian 155 million 125 million 280 million
French 175 million 115 million 290 million
Hindi/Urdu 250 million  ?  ?
Arabic 200 million 20 million 220 million
Brazilian Portuguese 160 million 30 million 190 million
Bengali 180 million  ?  ?
Japanese 110 million 10 million 120 million
Punjabi 90 million  ?  ?
German 100 million 10 million 110 million
Javanese 80 million  ?  ?

Statista (2015)[edit]

Statista Inc,[unreliable source?] is U.S.-based statistics company.[4]

Pos Language Native Speakers (Million) Total Speakers (Million)
1 English 375 1500
2 Chinese 982 1100
3 Hindi 460 650
4 Spanish 330 420
5 French 79 370
6 Arabic 206 300
7 Russian 165 275
8 Portuguese 216 235
9 Bengali 215 233
10 German 105 185

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]