The World's Top Twenty Spoken Languages


The table below presents speaker estimates for the world's top 20 languages (given in millions). The first column lists the languages on the basis of the number of mother-tongue (first-language) speakers they have. The second column gives population estimates for those countries where the language has official status. Note that the totals do not always coincide, since some major languages (such as Telugu and Javanese) are not official languages of whole countries, and some languages (such as Malay and Tagalog) are official languages of multilingual countries. The second column figures are often over-estimates, as by no means everyone in the countries where a second language is recognized (e.g. India) will be fluent in it. The figures are of some interest as indicators of the way languages are moving.

 

 Mother-tongue speakers
 

 Official-language populations
1  Chinese (1,000) 1 English (1,400)
2 English (350) 2 Chinese (1,000)
3 Spanish (250) 3 Hindi (700)
4 Hindi (200) 4 Spanish (280)
5 Arabic (150) 5 Russian (270)
6 Bengali (150) 6 French (220)
7 Russia (150) 7 Arabic (170)
8 Portuguese (135) 8 Portuguese (160)
9 Japanese (120) 9 Malay (160)
10 German (100) 10 Bengali (150)
11 French (70) 11 Japanese (120)
12 Panjabi (70) 12 German (100)
13 Javanese (65) 13 Urdu (85)
14 Bihari (65) 14 Italian (60)
15 Italian (60) 15 Korean (60)
16 Korean (60) 16 Vietnamese (60)
17 Telugu (55) 17 Persian (55)
18 Tamil (55) 18 Tagalog (50)
19 Marathi (50) 19 Thai (50)
20 Vietnamese (50) 20 Turkish (50)

Source: The Cambridge Factfinder, Cambridge University Press, 1993



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