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Languages of the World 2.0.2 license number

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For number by native speakers, see List of languages by number of native speakers.

Ambox current red.svg
This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (April 2016)

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, Chattisgarhi, 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 340 million native speakers but, depending on the criterion chosen, can be said to have as many as 2 billion speakers.[1]


  • 1 Ethnologue (2015, 18th edition)
  • 2 See also
  • 3 References
  • 4 External links

Ethnologue (2015, 18th edition)[edit]

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.[2] 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.

Language Family L1speakers L2speakers Total
English Indo-European, Germanic 400 million 1,100 million 1,500 million
all varieties of Chinese 1,200 million  ?  ?
Mandarin Chinese Sino-Tibetan, Chinese 900 million 190 million in China 1,090 million
Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 376 million (2010) 165 million (1999) 541 million
Spanish Indo-European, Romance 470 million 90 million 560 million
Arabic Afro-Asiatic, Semitic 295 million 100 million 395 million
Russian Indo-European, Slavic 150 million (2010) 110 million (2010) 260 million
Malay (incl. Indonesian and Malaysian) Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian 77 million (no date) 173 million (2010) 250 million
Portuguese Indo-European, Romance 215 million (2010) 35 million (2012) 250 million
French Indo-European, Romance 80 million (2015) 140 million (2015) 220 million
German Indo-European, Germanic 95 million (2014) 115 million 210 million
Bengali Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 189 million (2001–2011) 19 million in Bangladesh (2011) 208 million
Japanese Japonic 130 million 0.0115 million (2010)[3] 130 million
Lahnda (incl. Western Punjabi) Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 117 million (no date)  ? 117 million
Italian Indo-European, Romance 65 million (2015) 20 million (2015) 85 million
Javanese Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian 84 million (2000) 84 million
Telugu Dravidian 74 million (2001) 5 million in India (no date) 79 million
Tamil Dravidian 69 million (2001) 8 million in India (no date) 77 million
Korean Koreanic 77 million (2008–2010) 77 million
Wu Chinese (incl. Shanghainese) Sino-Tibetan, Chinese 77 million (1984) 77 million
Marathi Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 72 million (2001) 3 million in India (no date) 75 million
Turkish Turkic, Oghuz 71 million (2006) 0.3 million in Turkey 71 million
Vietnamese Austroasiatic, Viet–Muong 68 million (1999) 68 million
Yue Chinese (incl. Cantonese) Sino-Tibetan, Chinese 62 million (1984–2006)
Persian (Farsi) Indo-European, Indo-Aryan 57 million (2011)  ?  ?
Egyptian Arabic Afro-Asiatic, Semitic 55 million (2006)  ?  ?

The distinction Ethnologue uses for Eastern and Western Punjabi is the national border, which does not correspond to the linguistic distinction. 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.

See also[edit]

  • 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


  1. ^ Crystal, David languages of the World 2.0.2 license number and patch (March 2008). "Two thousand million?". English Today. doi:10.1017/S0266078408000023. 
  2. ^ "Summary by language size". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2016-04-06. 
  3. ^ "Japanese". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 

External links[edit]

  • Most Widely Spoken Languages
  • The World’s 10 most influential Languages by George Weber
  • (French) Qu'est-ce que la Francophonie?