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.




LanguageFirst language speakersTotal speakers including second language users
Range estimateMidpoint numberRange estimateMidpoint number
Chinese (Mandarin)800-1100950856-1120988
English315-400358455-508482
Spanish266-400333320-472396
Hindi250-385318333-487410
Arabic180-210195207-260233
Bangla (Bengali)180-190185189-250220
Russian160-180170277-320299
Portuguese160-180170188-20094
Japanese120-125123120-133127
German98-10099107-125116
French72-9081125-265195
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

LanguageEstimated native speakersEstimated speakers, native and spoken as a second language
Mandarin Chinese8731051
Spanish322500
English380600
Arabic206 to 422
Hindi181 to 366
Portuguese177223
Bengali171 to 207207
Russian145 to 167255
Japanese122 to 128130
German95 to 101170
Javanese7675.6
Wu77
Telugu70 to 7686
Marathi6871
Vietnamese67 to 7086
Korean67 to 7878
Tamil6272
French65 to 113350
Italian61 to 6262
(Western) Punjabi61 to 89104
Urdu60104
Cantonese55 to 66100
Turkish50 to 7489
Min Nan46 to 59 to to
Gujarati46.146.1
Polish43 to 4444
Ukrainian39 to 4747
Persian39 to 61110
Malayalam35 to 3848
Kannada3564
Azerbaijani3139
Oriya32
Hakka30 to 34 to to
Burmese22 to 3242
Thai20 to 4660
Amharic2734
Sundanese27
Romanian26.330
Kurdish31.4
Dutch20 to 25
Pashto26.830
Hausa24.240
Indonesian17.1140
Oromo17.2 to 2426
Tagalog17 to 2285
Uzbek20
Sindhi201
Yoruba1921
Somali9.8 to 1610 to 16.5
Lao3.219
Cebuano15 to 18.530
Malay1821
Igbo18
Serbo-Croatian1117
Malagasy10.517
Nepali1631 to 40
Assamese15
Shona14 to 1516 to 17
Khmer8 to 1415
Zhuang14
Madurese14
Hungarian14
Sinhalese1315
Fula11.413
Tamazight3.513
Haitian Creole7.812
Czech
Greek1217 to 18
Kazakh812
Quechua8.310.4
Zulu9 to 9.625


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











CITATION:
mongabay.com (July 25, 2005).

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

http://news.mongabay.com/2005/0724-unesco.html