The Top 20 Languages in the World (By Number of First-Language Speakers)

October 20, 2017

The Top 20 Languages in the World

According to Ethnologue, the foremost reference on living languages, there are 7,099 languages spoken in the world today and just 23 of these languages account for more than half of our global population of 7.6 billion people. (See the authoritative Worldometers for remarkable live statistics on our planet’s population.)

Among these 23 languages are Malay (#23, with 60.8 million first-language speakers), Persian (#22, with 61.9 million first-language speakers), and Italian (#21, with 63.4 million first-language speakers).

Below are the top 20 languages, by number of first-language speakers, ordered from #20 to #1. Make your best guess then click on the green “plus” sign to reveal each one. If you get a good score, feel free to boast in a comment below!

#20, with 68 million first-language speakers
Tamil (India)

#19, with 68.1 million first-language speakers
Vietnamese (Vietnam)

#18, with 69.1 million first-language speakers
Urdu (Pakistan)

#17, with 71.1 million first-language speakers
Turkish (Turkey)

#16, with 71.8 million first-language speakers
Marathi (India)

#15, with 74.2 million first-language speakers
Telugu (India)

#14, with 76.1 million first-language speakers
French (Countries include France, Canada, Belgium, and many others)

#13, with 76.8 million first-language speakers
German (Countries include Germany, Austria, Switzerland)

#12, with 77.2 million first-language speakers
Korean (South Korea, North Korea)

#11, with 84.4 million first-language speakers
Javanese (Indonesia)

#10, with 119 million first-language speakers
Varieties of Lahnda, including Punjabi (Pakistan)

#9, with 128 million first-language speakers
Japanese (Japan)

#8, with 154 million first-language speakers
Russian (Russian Federation)

#7, with 219 million first-language speakers
Portuguese (Countries include Portugal, Brazil)

#6, with 242 million first-language speakers
Bengali (Bangladesh)

#5, with 260 million first-language speakers
Hindi (India)

#4, with 295 million first-language speakers
Varieties of Arabic (Many countries in the Middle East)

#3, with 372 million first-language speakers
English (Countries include the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada)

#2, with 437 million first-language speakers
Spanish (Countries include Spain, Mexico, and many nations in Central America and South America)

#1, with 1.284 billion first-language speakers
Varieties of Chinese, including Mandarin (China)

Now give these quizzes a try, too!

What Do You Know About Bilingualism? Take This Quiz and Test Your Knowledge! (based on the book Bilingual: Life and Reality by Francois Grosjean)

Another Fun Quiz on Bilingualism! Test Your Knowledge! (based on the book A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker)

Take This Quiz on Bilingual Acquisition in Children! How Many Will You Get Right? (based on the book Bilingual First Language Acquisition by Annick De Houwer)

1 Wojtek October 20, 2017 at 11:09 pm

I was almost 100% sure that English would be in the 1st place… Nor it is in the second place…


2 Adam October 21, 2017 at 5:47 am

Wojtek, that might be the case if these statistics included second-language speakers of English, but Ethnologue is focused only on first-language speakers of the languages in this list.


3 Melissa October 22, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Awesome! Loved learning the top 20 languages. Thanks for sharing.


4 Adam October 22, 2017 at 5:22 pm

I’m glad this post was of interest, Melissa. Thanks for the positive feedback!


5 Alisa October 22, 2017 at 9:10 pm

Very interesting, Adam! Lots of surprises in there.


6 Adam October 23, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Alisa! Hope all is well with you and your family! :mrgreen:


Cancel reply

Comments, please! (Your email address won't be displayed.)

Previous post:

Next post: