List of languages by number of native speakers

Current distribution of human language families

This article ranks human languages by their number of native speakers.

However, all such rankings should be used with caution, because it is not possible to devise a coherent set of linguistic criteria for distinguishing languages in a dialect continuum.[1]For example, a language is often defined as a set of varieties that are mutually intelligible, but independent national standard languages may be considered to be separate languages even though they are largely mutually intelligible, as in the case of Danish and Norwegian.[2]Conversely, many commonly accepted languages, including German, Italian and even English, encompass varieties that are not mutually intelligible.[1]While Arabic is sometimes considered a single language centred on Modern Standard Arabic, other authors describe its mutually unintelligible varieties as separate languages.[3]Similarly, Chinese is sometimes viewed as a single language due to shared culture and a single written form.It is also common to describe various Chinese dialect groups, such as Mandarin, Wu and Yue, as languages, even though each of these groups contains many mutually unintelligible varieties.[4]

There are also difficulties in obtaining reliable counts of speakers, which vary over time due to population change and language shift.In some areas, there is no reliable census data, the data is not current, or the census may not record languages spoken, or record them ambiguously.Sometimes speaker populations are exaggerated for political reasons, or speakers of minority languages may be under-reported in favour of a national language.[5]

Top languages by population

The following table contains the top 100 languages by estimated number of native speakers in the 2007 edition of the Swedish encyclopedia Nationalencyklopedin. As census methods in different countries vary to a considerable extent, and given that some countries do not record language in their censuses, any list of languages by native speakers, or total speakers, is effectively based on estimates. Updated estimates from 2010 are also provided.[6]

The top eleven languages have additional figures from the 2010 edition of the Nationalencyklopedin. Numbers above 95 million are rounded off to the nearest 5 million.

Top languages by population per Nationalencyklopedin
Rank Language Native
speakers
in millions
2007 (2010)
Percentage
of world
population
(2007)
1 Mandarin (entire branch) 935 (955) 14.1%
2 Spanish 390 (405) 5.85%
3 English 365 (360) 5.52%
4 Hindi[a] 295 (310) 4.46%
5 Arabic 280 (295) 4.23%
6 Portuguese 205 (215) 3.08%
7 Bengali (Bangla) 200 (205) 3.05%
8 Russian 160 (155) 2.42%
9 Japanese 125 (125) 1.92%
10 Punjabi 95 (100) 1.44%
11 German 92 (95) 1.39%
12 Javanese 82 1.25%
13 Wu (inc. Shanghainese) 80 1.20%
14 Malay (inc. Indonesian and Malaysian) 77 1.16%
15 Telugu 76 1.15%
16 Vietnamese 76 1.14%
17 Korean 76 1.14%
18 French 75 1.12%
19 Marathi 73 1.10%
20 Tamil 70 1.06%
21 Urdu 66 0.99%
22 Turkish 63 0.95%
23 Italian 59 0.90%
24 Yue (inc. Cantonese) 59 0.89%
25 Thai 56 0.85%
26 Gujarati 49 0.74%
27 Jin 48 0.72%
28 Southern Min (inc. Hokkien and Teochew) 47 0.71%
29 Persian 45 0.68%
30 Polish 40 0.61%
31 Pashto 39 0.58%
32 Kannada 38 0.58%
33 Xiang 38 0.58%
34 Malayalam 38 0.57%
35 Sundanese 38 0.57%
36 Hausa 34 0.52%
37 Odia (Oriya) 33 0.50%
38 Burmese 33 0.50%
39 Hakka 31 0.46%
40 Ukrainian 30 0.46%
41 Bhojpuri 29[b] 0.43%
42 Tagalog (Filipino) 28 0.42%
43 Yoruba 28 0.42%
44 Maithili 27[b] 0.41%
45 Uzbek 26 0.39%
46 Sindhi 26 0.39%
47 Amharic 25 0.37%
48 Fula 24 0.37%
49 Romanian 24 0.37%
50 Oromo 24 0.36%
51 Igbo 24 0.36%
52 Azerbaijani 23 0.34%
53 Awadhi 22[b] 0.33%
54 Gan 22 0.33%
55 Cebuano (Visayan) 21 0.32%
56 Dutch 21 0.32%
57 Kurdish 21 0.31%
58 Serbo-Croatian 19 0.28%
59 Malagasy 18 0.28%
60 Saraiki 17[c] 0.26%
61 Nepali 17 0.25%
62 Sinhalese 16 0.25%
63 Chittagonian 16 0.24%
64 Zhuang 16 0.24%
65 Khmer 16 0.24%
66 Turkmen 16 0.24%
67 Assamese 15 0.23%
68 Madurese 15 0.23%
69 Somali 15 0.22%
70 Marwari 14[b] 0.21%
71 Magahi 14[b] 0.21%
72 Haryanvi 14[b] 0.21%
73 Hungarian 13 0.19%
74 Chhattisgarhi 12[b] 0.19%
75 Greek 12 0.18%
76 Chewa 12 0.17%
77 Deccan 11 0.17%
78 Akan 11 0.17%
79 Kazakh 11 0.17%
80 Northern Min[disputed ] 10.9 0.16%
81 Sylheti 10.7 0.16%
82 Zulu 10.4 0.16%
83 Czech 10.0 0.15%
84 Kinyarwanda 9.8 0.15%
85 Dhundhari 9.6[b] 0.15%
86 Haitian Creole 9.6 0.15%
87 Eastern Min (inc. Fuzhou dialect) 9.5 0.14%
88 Ilocano 9.1 0.14%
89 Quechua 8.9 0.13%
90 Kirundi 8.8 0.13%
91 Swedish 8.7 0.13%
92 Hmong 8.4 0.13%
93 Shona 8.3 0.13%
94 Uyghur 8.2 0.12%
95 Hiligaynon/Ilonggo (Visayan) 8.2 0.12%
96 Mossi 7.6 0.11%
97 Xhosa 7.6 0.11%
98 Belarusian 7.6[d] 0.11%
99 Balochi 7.6 0.11%
100 Konkani 7.4 0.11%
Total 5,610 85%
Other Languages
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Jezici po broju govornika