Q&A: What are the most spoken languages on earth?

/ Mongabay.com

According to figures from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the most widely spoken language on earth is Mandarin which is spoken as a first language by nearly a billion people. Second on the list is English with around 358 million, followed by Spanish. French is spoken as a first language by a mere 81 million, good for number on the list.




Q&A: What are the most spoken languages on earth?


Q&A: What are the most spoken languages on earth?

mongabay.com

July 25, 2005


According to figures from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the most widely spoken language on earth is Mandarin which is spoken as a first language by nearly a billion people. Second on the list is English with around 358 million, followed by Spanish. French is spoken as a first language by a mere 81 million, good for number eleven on the list.


Language First language speakers Total speakers including second language users
Range estimate Midpoint number Range estimate Midpoint number
Chinese (Mandarin) 800-1100 950 856-1120 988
English 315-400 358 455-508 482
Spanish 266-400 333 320-472 396
Hindi 250-385 318 333-487 410
Arabic 180-210 195 207-260 233
Bangla (Bengali) 180-190 185 189-250 220
Russian 160-180 170 277-320 299
Portuguese 160-180 170 188-200 94
Japanese 120-125 123 120-133 127
German 98-100 99 107-125 116
French 72-90 81 125-265 195

All figures are in millions of people

Earlier this month UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, launched a call for submissions to its new ‘Register of Good Practices in Language Preservation‘ as part of its campaign to safeguard languages in danger of extinction. UNESCO estimates that

  • Over 50% of the world’s 6000 languages are endangered.
  • 96% of the world’s 6000 languages are spoken by 4% of the world’s population.
  • 90% of the world’s languages are not represented on the Internet.
  • One language disappears on average every two weeks.



More estimates

Language Estimated native speakers Estimated speakers, native and spoken as a second language
Mandarin Chinese 873 1051
Spanish 322 500
English 380 600
Arabic 206 to 422
Hindi 181 to 366
Portuguese 177 223
Bengali 171 to 207 207
Russian 145 to 167 255
Japanese 122 to 128 130
German 95 to 101 170
Javanese 76 75.6
Wu 77
Telugu 70 to 76 86
Marathi 68 71
Vietnamese 67 to 70 86
Korean 67 to 78 78
Tamil 62 72
French 65 to 113 350
Italian 61 to 62 62
(Western) Punjabi 61 to 89 104
Urdu 60 104
Cantonese 55 to 66 100
Turkish 50 to 74 89
Min Nan 46 to 59 to to
Gujarati 46.1 46.1
Polish 43 to 44 44
Ukrainian 39 to 47 47
Persian 39 to 61 110
Malayalam 35 to 38 48
Kannada 35 64
Azerbaijani 31 39
Oriya 32
Hakka 30 to 34 to to
Burmese 22 to 32 42
Thai 20 to 46 60
Amharic 27 34
Sundanese 27
Romanian 26.3 30
Kurdish 31.4
Dutch 20 to 25
Pashto 26.8 30
Hausa 24.2 40
Indonesian 17.1 140
Oromo 17.2 to 24 26
Tagalog 17 to 22 85
Uzbek 20
Sindhi 20 1
Yoruba 19 21
Somali 9.8 to 16 10 to 16.5
Lao 3.2 19
Cebuano 15 to 18.5 30
Malay 18 21
Igbo 18
Serbo-Croatian 11 17
Malagasy 10.5 17
Nepali 16 31 to 40
Assamese 15
Shona 14 to 15 16 to 17
Khmer 8 to 14 15
Zhuang 14
Madurese 14
Hungarian 14
Sinhalese 13 15
Fula 11.4 13
Tamazight 3.5 13
Haitian Creole 7.8 12
Czech
Greek 12 17 to 18
Kazakh 8 12
Quechua 8.3 10.4
Zulu 9 to 9.6 25



Estimates derived from Wikipedia, which is based on figures from Ethnologue and Microsoft Encarta.


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