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

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!

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#20, with 68 million first-language speakers”]Tamil (India) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#19, with 68.1 million first-language speakers”]Vietnamese (Vietnam) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#18, with 69.1 million first-language speakers”]Urdu (Pakistan) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#17, with 71.1 million first-language speakers”]Turkish (Turkey) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#16, with 71.8 million first-language speakers”]Marathi (India) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#15, with 74.2 million first-language speakers”]Telugu (India) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#14, with 76.1 million first-language speakers”]French (Countries include France, Canada, Belgium, and many others) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#13, with 76.8 million first-language speakers”]German (Countries include Germany, Austria, Switzerland) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#12, with 77.2 million first-language speakers”]Korean (South Korea, North Korea) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#11, with 84.4 million first-language speakers”]Javanese (Indonesia) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#10, with 119 million first-language speakers”]Varieties of Lahnda, including Punjabi (Pakistan) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#9, with 128 million first-language speakers”]Japanese (Japan)[/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#8, with 154 million first-language speakers”]Russian (Russian Federation) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#7, with 219 million first-language speakers”]Portuguese (Countries include Portugal, Brazil)[/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#6, with 242 million first-language speakers”]Bengali (Bangladesh) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#5, with 260 million first-language speakers”]Hindi (India) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#4, with 295 million first-language speakers”]Varieties of Arabic (Many countries in the Middle East) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#3, with 372 million first-language speakers”]English (Countries include the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#2, with 437 million first-language speakers”]Spanish (Countries include Spain, Mexico, and many nations in Central America and South America) [/stextbox]

[stextbox id=”riddles” caption=”#1, with 1.284 billion first-language speakers”]Varieties of Chinese, including Mandarin (China) [/stextbox]

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)

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6 Responses

    1. 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.

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I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the popular books Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for 30 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 18 and 15. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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