List of languages by total number of speakers
A number of sources 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, some languages including Chinese and Arabic are sometimes considered single languages and sometimes language families. Similarly, Hindi is sometimes considered to be a language, 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 400 million native speakers but, depending on the criterion chosen, can be said to have as many as 2 billion speakers.
Ethnologue (2017, 20th edition)
The following 28 languages are listed as having 50 million or more total speakers in the 2017 edition of Ethnologue, a language reference published by SIL International, which is based in the United States.
Ethnologue also lists other languages as having 50 million or more total speakers: for example, the Wikipedia page for the Tagalog language reports 70+ million speakers by as early as 2000 and 73+ million speakers by 2013: 28 million L1 (first language) speakers as of 2007 and 45 million L2 (second language) speakers as of 2013; these are largely based on Ethnologue reports and would, unless further updated, rank it as the language with the 26th most L1 speakers, the 13th most L2 speakers, and the 23rd most speakers in total.
Speaker totals are generally not reliable, as they add together estimates from different dates and (usually uncited) sources; language information is not collected on most national censuses.
|Rank||Language||Ethnologue||Family||L1 speakers||L1 Rank||L2 speakers||L2 Rank||Total|
|1||English||eng||Indo-European, Germanic||378.2 million||3||743.5 million||1||1.12 billion|
|2||Mandarin Chinese (incl. Standard Chinese)||cmn||Sino-Tibetan, Sinitic||908.7 million||1||198.4 million||5||1.10 billion|
|Indo-European, Indo-Aryan||329.1 million||4||368.3 million||2||697.4 million|
|4||Spanish||spa||Indo-European, Romance||442.3 million||2||70.6 million||9||512.9 million|
|5||Arabic||ara||Afro-Asiatic, Semitic||290 million (2017)||5||132 million||6||422 million|
|6||French||fra||Indo-European, Romance||76.7 million||16||208.1 million||3||284.9 million|
|7||Malay (incl. Indonesian and Malaysian)||msa||Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian||77 million (2007)||15||204 million||4||281 million|
|8||Russian||rus||Indo-European, Slavic||153.9 million||8||110.4 million||7||264.3 million|
|9||Bengali||ben||Indo-European, Indo-Aryan||242.6 million||6||19.2 million in Bangladesh (2011)||14||261.8 million|
|10||Portuguese||por||Indo-European, Romance||222.7 million||7||13.8 million||15||236.5 million|
|Indo-European, Indo-Aryan||148.3 million||9||?||?||148.3 million|
|12||German||deu||Indo-European, Germanic||76.0 million||17||56.0 million||11||132.0 million|
|13||Japanese||jpn||Japonic||128.2 million||10||131,000||23||128.3 million|
|14||Persian||fas||Indo-European, Iranian||60 million (2009)||24||50 million||10||110 million|
|15||Swahili||swa||Niger–Congo, Bantu||16.0 million||28||82.3 million||8||98.3 million|
|16||Javanese||jav||Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian||84.3 million (2000)||11||?||?||84.3 million|
|17||Wu Chinese (incl. Shanghainese)||wuu||Sino-Tibetan, Chinese||80.7 million (2015)||12||63,000||24||80.7 million|
|18||Telugu||tel||Dravidian||74.7 million||18||5.0 million||17||79.7 million|
|19||Turkish||tur||Turkic, Oghuz||78.5 million||13||380,000||22||78.9 million|
|20||Korean||kor||Koreanic||77.2 million||14||?||?||77.2 million|
|21||Marathi||mar||Indo-European, Indo-Aryan||71.7 million (2001)||20||3.0 million in India||18||74.7 million|
|22||Tamil||tam||Dravidian||66.6 million||22||8.0 million||16||74.6 million|
|23||Yue Chinese (incl. Cantonese)||yue||Sino-Tibetan, Chinese||73.3 million||19||402,000||20||73.7 million|
|24||Vietnamese||vie||Austroasiatic, Viet–Muong||67.9 million||21||?||?||67.9 million|
|25||Italian||ita||Indo-European, Romance||64.8 million||23||3.0 million||19||67.8 million|
|26||Hausa||hau||Afro-Asiatic, Chadic||43.6 million||26||19.5 million||13||63.1 million|
|27||Thai||tha||Tai–Kadai, Southwestern Tai||20.5 million||27||40.0 million||12||60.5 million|
|28||Southern Min (incl. Hokkien)||nan||Sino-Tibetan, Chinese||49.7 million||25||387,000||21||50.1 million|
- Linguistic demography
- Lists of endangered languages - with the fewest numbers of speakers
- Lists of languages
- List of languages without official status by total number of speakers
- List of languages by number of native speakers
- World language
- Languages used on the Internet
- Refers to Modern Standard Hindi and Modern Standard Urdu. Modern Hindi and Urdu are mutually intelligible and are considered by linguists to be dialects of the same language; the two distinct registers are the outcome of nationalist tendencies. The Census of India defines Hindi on a loose and broad basis. In addition to Standard Hindi, it incorporates a set of other Indo-Aryan languages written in Devanagari script including Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Haryanvi, Dhundhari etc. under Hindi group which have more than 422 million native speakers as on 2001. However, the census also acknowledges Standard Hindi, the above mentioned languages and others as separate mother tongues of Hindi language and provides individual figures for all these languages.
- Crystal, David (March 2008). "Two thousand million?". English Today. doi:10.1017/S0266078408000023.
- "Summary by language size". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
- Abdul Jamil Khan (2006). Urdu/Hindi: an artificial divide. Algora. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-87586-437-2.
- Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2000, Census of India, 2001
- "Världens 100 största språk 2010" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2010), in Nationalencyklopedin
- Indonesia 258 million (World Bank, 2015); Malaysia 19.4 million Bumiputera (Dept of Statistics, Malaysia, 2016); Brunei 0.43 million (World Bank, 2015); Singapore 0.5 million (University of Hawaii 2012); Thailand 3 million (University of Hawaii, 2012)
- Lahnda/Western Punjabi 116.6 million Pakistan (c. 2014). Eastern Punjabi: 28.2 million India (2001), other countries: 1.1 million. Ethnologue 19.
- Windfuhr, Gernot: The Iranian Languages, Routledge 2009, p. 418.