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, Chinese and Arabic are sometimes considered single languages and sometimes language families. Similarly, Hindi is sometimes considered a single language or a family including Mewari, Chhattisgarhi, 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 400 million native speakers but, depending on the criterion chosen, can be said to have as many as 2 billion speakers.
Ethnologue (2015, 18th edition)
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. 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||Family||L1 speakers||L1 Rank||L2 speakers||Total|
|1||Mandarin Chinese (incl. Standard Chinese)||Sino-Tibetan, Chinese||900 million||1||190 million||1,090 million|
|2||English||Indo-European, Germanic||339 million||3||603 million||942 million|
|3||Spanish||Indo-European, Romance||427 million||2||94 million||570 million|
|4||Arabic||Afro-Asiatic, Semitic||295 million||4||90 million||385 million|
|5||Hindi [Note 1]||Indo-European, Indo-Aryan||260 million (2001)||5||120 million (1999)||380 million|
|6||Malay (incl. Indonesian and Malaysian)||Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian||77 million (no date)||16||204 million||281 million|
|7||French||Indo-European, Romance||80 million (2015)||14||140 million (2015)||274 million|
|8||Portuguese||Indo-European, Romance||230 million (2010)||6||32 million (2010)||262 million|
|9||Russian||Indo-European, Slavic||160 million (2010)||8||115 million (2010)||275 million|
|10||German||Indo-European, Germanic||95 million (2014)||11||115 million||210 million|
|11||Bengali||Indo-European, Indo-Aryan||189 million (2011)||7||19 million in Bangladesh (2011)||208 million|
|12||Urdu||Indo-European, Indo-Aryan||68 million (2007)||22||94 million (1999)||162 million|
|13||Punjabi||Indo-European, Indo-Aryan||146 million||9||?||146 million|
|14||Japanese||Japonic||130 million||10||0.0115 million (2010)||130 million|
|15||Persian (Farsi)||Indo-European, Iranian||60 million (2009)||25||50 million||110 million|
|16||Swahili||Niger–Congo language, Coastal Tanzanian, Bantu||16 million||?||82 million||98 million|
|17||Telugu||Dravidian||80 million (2011)||13||12 million in India (2011)||92 million|
|18||Italian||Indo-European, Romance||65 million (2015)||23||20 million (2015)||85 million|
|19||Javanese||Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian||84 million (2000)||12||?||84 million|
|20||Tamil||Dravidian||74 million (2001)||19||5 million in India||79 million|
|21||Korean||Koreanic||77 million (2008–2010)||18||?||77 million|
|22||Wu Chinese (incl. Shanghainese)||Sino-Tibetan, Chinese||77 million (1984)||17||77 million|
|23||Marathi||Indo-European, Indo-Aryan||72 million (2001)||20||3 million in India (no date)||75 million|
|24||Turkish||Turkic, Oghuz||80 million (2015)||21||0.3 million in Turkey||71 million|
|25||Vietnamese||Austroasiatic, Viet–Muong||78 million||15||?||78 million|
|26||Yue Chinese (incl. Cantonese)||Sino-Tibetan, Chinese||62 million (1984–2006)||24||?||62 million|
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.
- 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
- Refers to only Modern Standard Hindi here. 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.
- Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2000, Census of India, 2001
- 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)
- affairs, The French Ministry of Foreign. "The status of French in the world". France Diplomatie :: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. Retrieved 2016-06-15.
- Lahnda/Western Punjabi 116.6 million Pakistan (2014?). Eastern Punjabi: 28.2 million India (2001), other countries: 1.1 million. Ethnologue 19.
- "Japanese". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
- Windfuhr, Gernot: The Iranian Languages, Routledge 2009, p. 418.