List of languages by total number of speakers

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

Background[edit]

Lists such as these should be used with caution, for the following reasons:

  • First, it is difficult to define exactly what constitutes a language as opposed to a dialect. For example, some languages, including 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, so they are sometimes classified as one language, Hindustani, instead of two separate languages.[1]
  • 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.[2]

Ethnologue (2019, 22nd edition)[edit]

The following 32 languages are listed as having 50 million or more total speakers in the 2019 edition of Ethnologue, a language reference published by SIL International, which is based in the United States.[3] Entries identified by Ethnologue as macrolanguages are not included in this section.

Wikipedia 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. However, Tagalog is not included in this section because Ethnologue reports it as having only 23+ million total speakers.[4]

Speaker totals are generally not reliable because they sum estimates from different dates and sources, usually uncited. Language information is not collected by most national censuses.

Rank Language Family Branch L1 speakers L1 Rank L2 speakers L2 Rank Total
1 English Indo-European Germanic 379.0 million 3 753.3 million 1 1.132 billion[5]
2 Mandarin Chinese (incl. Standard Chinese) Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 917.8 million 1 198.7 million 5 1.116 billion[6]
3 Hindi (incl. all Central Zone languages) Indo-European Indo-Aryan 341.2 million 4 274.2 million 2 615.4 million[7]
4 Spanish Indo-European Romance 460.1 million 2 74.2 million 10 534.3 million[8]
5 French Indo-European Romance 77.2 million 14 202.6 million 4 279.8 million[9]
6 Standard Arabic Afro-Asiatic Semitic - - 273.9 million 3 273.9 million[10]
7 Bengali Indo-European Indo-Aryan 228.3 million 5 36.7 million 13 265.0 million[11]
8 Russian Indo-European Slavic 153.7 million 7 104.4 million 7 258.2 million[12]
9 Portuguese Indo-European Romance 220.7 million 6 13.4 million 15 234.1 million[13]
10 Indonesian Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian 43.3 million 29 155.3 million 6 198.7 million[14]
11 Urdu Indo-European Indo-Aryan 68.6 million 20 101.6 million 8 170.2 million[15]
12 German Indo-European Germanic 76.0 million 16 56.0 million 11 132.1 million[16]
13 Japanese Japonic 128.2 million 8 121,500 25 128.3 million[17]
14 Swahili Niger–Congo Bantu 16.0 million 31 82.3 million 9 98.3 million[18]
15 Marathi Indo-European Indo-Aryan 83.1 million 10 12.2 million 16 95.3 million[19]
16 Telugu Dravidian South-Central 82.0 million 11 11.0 million 17 93.0 million[20]
17 Western Punjabi (Lahnda) Indo-European Indo-Aryan 92.7 million 9 - - 92.7 million[21]
18 Wu Chinese (incl. Shanghainese) Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 81.4 million 12 63,400 26 81.5 million[22]
19 Tamil Dravidian South 75.0 million 18 5.9 million 18 80.9 million[23]
20 Turkish Turkic Oghuz 79.4 million 13 380,300 23 79.7 million[24]
21 Korean Koreanic 77.2 million 15 - - 77.2 million[25]
22 Vietnamese Austroasiatic Vietic 75.9 million 17 1.0 million 21 76.9 million[26]
23 Yue Chinese (incl. Cantonese) Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 73.1 million 19 402,000 22 73.5 million[27]
24 Javanese Austronesian Malayo-Polynesian 68.2 million 21 - - 68.2 million[28]
25 Italian Indo-European Romance 64.8 million 22 3.0 million 20 67.8 million[29]
26 Egyptian Arabic Afro-Asiatic Semitic 64.6 million 23 - - 64.6 million[30]
27 Hausa Afro-Asiatic Chadic 43.9 million 28 19.5 million 14 63.4 million[31]
28 Thai Kra–Dai Zhuang–Tai 20.6 million 30 40.0 million 12 60.6 million[32]
29 Gujarati Indo-European Indo-Aryan 56.4 million 24 4.1 million 19 60.5 million[33]
30 Kannada Dravidian South 43.5 million - 12.9 million - 56.4 million[34]
31 Persian Indo-European Iranian 52.7 million 25 - - 52.7 million[35]
32 Bhojpuri Indo-European Indo-Aryan 52.2 million 26 160,000 24 52.4 million[36]
33 Southern Min (incl. Hokkien) Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 50.0 million 27 387,000 22 50.4 million[37]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[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.
  2. ^ Crystal, David (March 2008). "Two thousand million?". English Today. doi:10.1017/S0266078408000023.
  3. ^ "Summary by language size". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  4. ^ Tagalog at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  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. ^ Punjabi, Western at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  22. ^ Chinese, Wu at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  23. ^ Tamil at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  24. ^ Turkish at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  25. ^ Korean at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  26. ^ Vietnamese at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  27. ^ Chinese, Yue at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  28. ^ Javanese at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  29. ^ Italian at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  30. ^ Arabic, Egyptian at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  31. ^ Hausa at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  32. ^ Thai at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  33. ^ Gujarati at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  34. ^ Kannada at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  35. ^ Persian, Iranian at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  36. ^ Bhojpuri at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  37. ^ Chinese, Min Nan at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)

External links[edit]