List of languages by total number of speakers

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This is a list of languages by total number of speakers.

It is difficult to define what constitutes a language as opposed to a dialect. Some languages, such as Chinese and Arabic, cover several mutually unintelligible varieties and are sometimes considered single languages and sometimes language families. Conversely, colloquial registers of Hindi and Urdu are almost completely mutually intelligible, and are sometimes classified as one language, Hindustani, instead of two separate languages. Such rankings should be used with caution, because it is not possible to devise a coherent set of linguistic criteria for distinguishing languages in a dialect continuum.[1]

There is no single criterion for how much knowledge is sufficient to be counted as a second-language speaker. For example, English has about 370 million native speakers but, depending on the criterion chosen, can be said to have as many as 2 billion speakers.[2]

There are also difficulties in obtaining reliable counts of speakers, which vary over time because of population change and language shift. In some areas, there is no reliable census data, the data is not current, or the census may not record languages spoken, or record them ambiguously. Sometimes speaker populations are exaggerated for political reasons, or speakers of minority languages may be under-reported in favor of a national language.[3]

Top languages by population[edit]

Ethnologue (2022, 25th edition)[edit]

The following languages are listed as having 40 million or more total speakers in the 2022 edition of Ethnologue.[4] Entries identified by Ethnologue as macrolanguages (such as Arabic, Persian, Malay, Pashto, and Chinese, encompassing all their respective varieties) are not included in this section.

Language Family Branch First language
(L1) speakers
Second language
(L2) speakers
Total speakers
(L1+L2)
English Indo-European Germanic 372.9 million [5]1.080 billion 1.452 billion
Mandarin Chinese
(incl. Standard Chinese, but excl. other varieties)
Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 929.0 million [6]198.7 million 1.118 billion
Hindi
(excl. Urdu)
Indo-European Indo-Aryan 343.9 million [7]258.3 million 602.2 million
Spanish Indo-European Romance 474.7 million [8]73.6 million 548.3 million
French Indo-European Romance 79.9 million [9]194.2 million 274.1 million
Modern Standard Arabic
(excl. dialects)
Afro-Asiatic Semitic 0[a] [11]274.0 million 274.0 million
Bengali Indo-European Indo-Aryan 233.7 million [12]39.0 million 272.7 million
Russian Indo-European Balto-Slavic 154.0 million [13]104.1 million 258.2 million
Portuguese Indo-European Romance 232.4 million [14]25.2 million 257.7 million
Urdu
(excl. Hindi)
Indo-European Indo-Aryan 70.2 million [15]161.0 million 231.3 million
Indonesian
(excl. Malay)
Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian 43.6 million [16]155.4 million 199.0 million
Standard German Indo-European Germanic 75.6 million [17]59.1 million 134.6 million
Japanese Japonic 125.3 million [18]0.1 million 125.4 million
Nigerian Pidgin English Creole Krio 4.7 million [19]116.0 million 120.7 million
Marathi Indo-European Indo-Aryan 83.1 million [20]16.0 million 99.1 million
Telugu Dravidian South-Central 82.7 million [21]13.0 million 95.7 million
Turkish Turkic Oghuz 82.2 million [22]5.9 million 88.1 million
Tamil Dravidian Southern 78.4 million [23]8.0 million 86.4 million
Yue Chinese
(incl. Cantonese)
Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 85.2 million [24]0.4 million 85.6 million
Vietnamese Austroasiatic Vietic 84.6 million [25]0.7 million 85.3 million
Tagalog[b] Austronesian Central Philippine 28.2 million [26]54.2 million 82.3 million
Wu Chinese
(incl. Shanghainese)
Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 81.7 million [27]0.1 million 81.8 million
Korean Koreanic
[28]
81.7 million
Iranian Persian
(excl. Dari and Tajik)
Indo-European Iranian 56.4 million [29]21.0 million 77.4 million
Hausa Afro-Asiatic Chadic 50.8 million [30]26.3 million 77.1 million
Egyptian Spoken Arabic
(excl. other Arabic dialects)
Afro-Asiatic Semitic
[31]
74.8 million
Swahili Niger–Congo Bantu 16.1 million [32]55.4 million 71.4 million
Javanese Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian
[33]
68.3 million
Italian Indo-European Romance 64.8 million [34]3.1 million 67.9 million
Western Punjabi
(excl. Eastern Punjabi)
Indo-European Indo-Aryan
[35]
66.4 million
Kannada Dravidian Southern 48.6 million [36]15.4 million 64.0 million
Gujarati Indo-European Indo-Aryan 57.0 million [37]5.0 million 62.0 million
Thai Kra–Dai Zhuang–Tai 20.7 million [38]40.0 million 60.7 million
Amharic Afroasiatic Semitic 32.4 million [39]25.1 million 57.5 million
Bhojpuri Indo-European Indo-Aryan 52.3 million [40]0.2 million 52.5 million
Eastern Punjabi
(excl. Western Punjabi)
Indo-European Indo-Aryan 48.1 million [41]3.6 million 51.7 million
Min Nan Chinese
(incl. Hokkien)
Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 49.3 million [42]0.4 million 49.7 million
Jin Chinese Sino-Tibetan Sinitic
[43]
47.1 million
Yoruba Niger–Congo Atlantic–Congo 43.6 million [44]2.0 million 45.6 million
Hakka Chinese Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 43.8 million [45]0.2 million 44.1 million
Burmese Sino-Tibetan Tibeto-Burman 33.0 million [46]10.0 million 43.0 million
Sudanese Spoken Arabic Afro-Asiatic Semitic 33.3 million [47]9.0 million 42.3 million
Polish Indo-European Balto-Slavic 40.0 million [48]0.7 million 40.6 million
Algerian Spoken Arabic Afro-Asiatic Semitic 34.7 million [49]5.6 million 40.3 million
Lingala Niger–Congo Atlantic–Congo 20.3 million 20.0 million 40.3 million

CIA, 2020[edit]

According to the CIA, the 10 most-spoken languages (L1 + L2) in 2020 were:[50]

Most-spoken languages, CIA, 2020[50]
Language Percentage
of world
population
(2020)
English 16.5%
Mandarin Chinese 14.6%
Hindi 8.3%
Spanish 7.0%
French 3.6%
Arabic 3.6%
Bengali 3.4%
Russian 3.4%
Portuguese 3.3%
Indonesian 2.6%

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Modern Standard Arabic is not an L1.[10]
  2. ^ Tagalog and Filipino are defined as two different languages in the ISO 639 standard. Ethnologue considers that Filipino is a standardized variety of the Tagalog language with no speakers.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Paolillo, John C.; Das, Anupam (31 March 2006). "Evaluating language statistics: the Ethnologue and beyond" (PDF). UNESCO Institute of Statistics. pp. 3–5. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  2. ^ Crystal, David (March 2008). "Two thousand million?". English Today. 24: 3–6. doi:10.1017/S0266078408000023. S2CID 145597019.
  3. ^ Crystal, David (1988). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 286–287. ISBN 978-0-521-26438-9.
  4. ^ "What are the top 200 most spoken languages?". Ethnologue. 3 October 2018. Retrieved 2021-02-26.
  5. ^ English at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  6. ^ Chinese, Mandarin at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  7. ^ Hindi at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  8. ^ Spanish at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  9. ^ French at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  10. ^ List of languages by total number of speakers at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  11. ^ List of languages by total number of speakers at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  12. ^ Bengali at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  13. ^ Russian at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  14. ^ Portuguese at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  15. ^ Urdu at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  16. ^ Indonesian at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  17. ^ German, Standard at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  18. ^ Japanese at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  19. ^ Nigerian Pidgin at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  20. ^ Marathi at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  21. ^ Telugu at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  22. ^ Turkish at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  23. ^ Tamil at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  24. ^ Chinese, Yue at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  25. ^ Vietnamese at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  26. ^ Tagalog at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  27. ^ Chinese, Wu at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  28. ^ List of languages by total number of speakers at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  29. ^ Persian, Iranian at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  30. ^ Hausa at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  31. ^ List of languages by total number of speakers at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  32. ^ Swahili at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  33. ^ List of languages by total number of speakers at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  34. ^ Italian at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  35. ^ Western Punjabi at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  36. ^ Kannada at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  37. ^ Gujarati at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  38. ^ Thai at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  39. ^ List of languages by total number of speakers at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  40. ^ Bhojpuri at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  41. ^ List of languages by total number of speakers at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  42. ^ Chinese, Min Nan at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  43. ^ List of languages by total number of speakers at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  44. ^ Yoruba at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  45. ^ Hakka Chinese at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  46. ^ Burmese at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  47. ^ Sudanese Spoken Arabic at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  48. ^ Polish at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  49. ^ Sudanese Spoken Arabic at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)
  50. ^ a b "Most spoken languages in the World". Retrieved 1 Jan 2022.

External links[edit]