List of languages by total number of speakers

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This is an approximate list of languages by the total number of speakers. It lists 37 languages having more than 45 million speakers. Lists such as these should be used with caution, for the following reasons:

  • 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.[1]

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 favour of a national language.[2] However, all 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.[3]

Top languages by population[edit]

Ethnologue (2020, 23rd edition)[edit]

The following 37 languages are listed as having 45 million or more total speakers in the 2020 edition of Ethnologue, a language reference published by SIL International, which is based in the United States.[4] Entries identified by Ethnologue as macrolanguages are not included in this section.

Rank Language Family Branch First language (L1) Second language (L2) Total
No. of
speakers
No. of
speakers
Rank No. of
speakers
Rank
1 English Indo-European Germanic 370 million 3 898.4 million 1 1.268 billion[5]
2 Mandarin Chinese (incl. Standard Chinese) Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 921 million 1 198.7 million 4 1.120 billion[6]
3 Hindi Indo-European Indo-Aryan 342 million 4 295.3 million 2 637 million[7]
4 Spanish Indo-European Romance 463 million 2 74.9 million 9 538 million[8]
5 French Indo-European Romance 77.3 million 17 199.3 million 3 277 million[9]
6 Standard Arabic Afro-Asiatic Semitic 274.0 million 274 million[10]
7 Bengali Indo-European Indo-Aryan 228 million 5 36.8 million 13 265 million[11]
8 Russian Indo-European Slavic 154 million 7 104.3 million 6 258 million[12]
9 Portuguese Indo-European Romance 228 million 6 24.2 million 15 252 million[13]
10 Indonesian Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian 43.6 million 155.4 million 5 199 million[14]
11 Urdu Indo-European Indo-Aryan 69.0 million 20 101.6 million 7 171 million[15]
12 Standard German Indo-European Germanic 75.5 million 19 56.1 million 10 132 million[16]
13 Japanese Japonic 126 million 8 0.1215 million 27 126 million[17]
14 Swahili Niger–Congo Bantu 82.3 million 8 99 million[18]
15 Marathi Indo-European Indo-Aryan 83.1 million 10 12.2 million 17 95 million[19]
16 Telugu Dravidian South-Central 82.4 million 12 11.0 million 18 93 million[20]
17 Turkish Turkic Oghuz 79.5 million 14 5.7 million 20 85 million[21]
18 Yue Chinese (incl. Cantonese) Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 84.5 million 9 0.402 million 24 85 million[22]
19 Tamil Dravidian Southern 77.8 million 16 6.0 million 19 84 million[23]
20 Western Punjabi (Lahnda) Indo-European Indo-Aryan 82.8 million 11 83 million[24]
21 Wu Chinese (incl. Shanghainese) Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 81.7 million 13 0.063 million 28 82 million[25]
22 Korean Koreanic 79.4 million 15 79 million[26]
23 Vietnamese Austroasiatic Vietic 76.0 million 18 1.0 million 23 77 million[27]
24 Hausa Afro-Asiatic Chadic 25.0 million 14 73 million[28]
25 Javanese Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian 68.3 million 21 68 million[29]
26 Egyptian Spoken Arabic Afro-Asiatic Semitic 67.8 million 22 68 million[30]
27 Italian Indo-European Romance 64.6 million 23 3.1 million 22 68 million[31]
28 Gujarati Indo-European Indo-Aryan 56.5 million 24 4.2 million 21 61 million[32]
29 Thai Kra–Dai Zhuang–Tai 40.0 million 12 61 million[33]
30 Amharic Afro-Asiatic Semitic 57 million[34]
31 Kannada Dravidian Southern 12.9 million 16 56 million[35]
32 Iranian Persian Indo-European Iranian 55.0 million 25 55 million[36]
33 Bhojpuri Indo-European Indo-Aryan 52.2 million 26 0.160 million 26 52 million[37]
34 Min Nan Chinese (incl. Hokkien) Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 48.2 million 0.387 million 25 49 million[38]
35 Jinyu Chinese Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 47.1 million 47 million[39]
36 Filipino Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian 45.0 million 11 45 million[40]
37 Nigerian Pidgin English Creole 45 million[41]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ For further examples of mutually intelligible varieties that are often, and even legally, classified as separate languages, see Malay language, Persian language and Serbo-Croatian.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Crystal, David (March 2008). "Two thousand million?". English Today. 24: 3–6. doi:10.1017/S0266078408000023.
  2. ^ Crystal, David (1988). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 286–287. ISBN 978-0-521-26438-9.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Summary by language size". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  5. ^ English at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  6. ^ Chinese, Mandarin at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  7. ^ Hindi at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  8. ^ Spanish at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  9. ^ French at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  10. ^ Arabic, Standard at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  11. ^ Bengali at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  12. ^ Russian at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  13. ^ Portuguese at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  14. ^ Indonesian at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  15. ^ Urdu at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  16. ^ German, Standard at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  17. ^ Japanese at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  18. ^ Swahili at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  19. ^ Marathi at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  20. ^ Telugu at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  21. ^ Turkish at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  22. ^ Chinese, Yue at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  23. ^ Tamil at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  24. ^ Punjabi, Western at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  25. ^ Chinese, Wu at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  26. ^ Korean at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  27. ^ Vietnamese at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  28. ^ Hausa at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  29. ^ Javanese at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  30. ^ Arabic, Egyptian Spoken at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  31. ^ Italian at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  32. ^ Gujarati at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  33. ^ Thai at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  34. ^ Amharic at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  35. ^ Kannada at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  36. ^ Persian, Iranian at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  37. ^ Bhojpuri at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  38. ^ Chinese, Min Nan at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  39. ^ Chinese, Jinyu at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  40. ^ Filipino at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  41. ^ Pidgin, Nigerian at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)

External links[edit]