Statistics on Language



For those interested instead in statistics related to the spread of the idea of a world auxiliary language (via our campaign), please see our Monitoring Progress section.

This section you are now visiting aims to provide some basic information about language use and distribution throughout the world which may be of interest to those visiting this site. It is not intended to endorse a particular language or language type, but is merely intended to give a more or less accurate picture of where the present status of global language lies.

We welcome additional contributions to this site--of a broad and general nature--which could help offer our viewers a clearer picture of the present language situation.



The following statistics are available:

1) Languages by first language speaker totals

2) Languages by second language speaker totals

3) Languages by first and second language speaker totals

4) International and regional institutions' current official languages

5) Countries where a given language is spoken

6) Languages spoken within given countries




1. 1st language knowledge around the world by country


The following list shows the total number of speakers of a given language as native speakers (in descending order of total native speakers) according to the World Almanac and Book of Facts 2002:

Chinese, Mandarin 874 million
Hindi 366
English 341
Spanish 322-358
Bengali 207
Portuguese 176
Russian 167
Japanese 125
German, Standard 100
Korean 78
French 77
Chinese, Wu 77
Javanese 75
Chinese, Yue 71
Telugu 69


(Source: The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2002; New York: World Almanac Books.)


See also: http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/linguist/top100.htm



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2. 2nd language knowledge around the world by country

The following list shows the total number of speakers of a given language as non-native speakers. Remember, the degree of knowledge will vary a great among those considered to "speak" the language non-natively. Also, there may be other languages which should be among the items in the list but which were not available in the source list.

Mandarin 190 million
English 167
Hindi 121
Malay-Indonesian 118
Russian 110
Spanish 67
French 52
Arabic 45
German 28
Portuguese 16
Bengali 5
Japanese 1

(Source: The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2000; Mahwah, NJ: PRIMEDIA
Reference, Inc.)


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3. 1st and 2nd language (combined) knowledge around the world by country

The following list shows the total number of speakers of a given language (including non-native as well as native speakers of that language). Remember, the degree of knowledge will vary a great among those considered to "speak" the language non-natively. Also, there may be other languages which should be among the items in the list but which were not available in the source list.

Mandarin 1,075 million
English 514
Hindi 496
Spanish 425
Arabic 256
Bengali 215
Portuguese 194
Russian 275
Japanese 126
German 128
French 129
Malay-Indonesian 176

(Source: The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2000; Mahwah, NJ: PRIMEDIA
Reference, Inc.)


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4. International and regional institutions' current official languages:

The following list shows which languages are currently established as official languages for international or regional institutions (listed from international to regional and political to military, then alphabetically):


United Nations:

Official Languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish

(Source: The United Nations: An Introduction for Students on-line at
http://www0.un.org/cyberschoolbus/unintro/unintro.htm)



Inter-Parliamentary Union:

Official Languages: French and English. (Conferences also have simultaneous
interpretation into Spanish and Arabic.)

(Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union email)



Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Official Language: English

(Source: The Atlantic Monthly, "What Global Language?" at: http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2000/11/wallraff.htm)



European Union:

Official Languages: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish.

(Source: A Guide to the European Union Frequently Asked Questions, on-line at: http://www.ecdel.org.au/eu_guide/eu_guide.htm#eulanguages)



Organization of African Unity (OAU)

Official Languages: Arabic, English, French, Portuguese.

(Source: Organization of African Unity, on-line at: http://www.itcilo.it/english/actrav/telearn/global/ilo/law/oau.htm)



Organization of American States (OAS)

English, Spanish, French and Portuguese

(Source: Organization of American States, on-line at:
http://www.oas.org/en/pINFO/OAS/oas.htm)




North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Official Languages: English and French

http://www.nato.int/archives/1st5years/appendices/4.htm





Other contributions on statistics for other important regional or international institutions are welcome.


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5. Countries where a given language is spoken

For a listing of countries where a given language is spoken, visit:
http://www.ethnologue.com/language_index.asp

The latter also includes statistics on the number of speakers in that country and includes information on its status (official, etc.).

For a comprehensive listing of countries where a given language is spoken (perhaps more than the former), see:
http://www.rosettaproject.org/live/search/browsebylangname
(then click on the language and a "Countries where spoken" field should appear amongst other information)




The following list shows this list of languages in order of the total number of speakers:

13 Most Widely Spoken Languages' Use in Countries (listed by language)

1. Chinese, Mandarin Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand
2. Spanish Andorra, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equitoreal Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Uruguay, United States, Venezuela
3. English Australia, Botswana, Brunei, Cameroon, Canada, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, The Gambia, Guyana, India, Ireland, Israel, Lesotho, Liberia, Malaysia, Micronesia, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Suriname, Swaziland, Tonga, United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu, Zimbabwe, many Caribbean states
4. Bengali Bangladesh, India, Singapore
5. Hindi India, Nepal, Sinapore, South Africa, Uganda
6. Portuguese Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, France, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Principe
7. Russian China, Israel, Mongolia, Russia, United States
8. Japanese Japan, Singapore, Taiwan
9. German, Standard Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland
10. Chinese, Wu China
11. Javanese Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore
12. Korean China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand
13. French Andorra, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Comoros, Congo, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Djibouti, France, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Luxembourg, Mauritania, Monaco, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Vanuatu


(Note: Arabic dialects were listed separately (as many are mutually unintelligible), though it is used in a good number of countries. Likewise even more Chinese dialects would appear if the written form were considered here.)

(Source: Time Almanac 2002 with Information Please, Boston: Family Education Company.)


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6) Languages spoken within given countries

To see a breakdown of what main languages are spoken in each country, see http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0855611.html

The above indicates the most prominent languages spoken (rather than focusing on small minority languages) and provides information on official languages.

The following provides a more comprehensive list of languages within a given country (but does not show the number of speakers for each): http://www.rosettaproject.org/live/search/browsebycountry

The following contains the most comprehensive statistical data (includes detailed information on languages spoken within a country (though perhaps not as detailed as the previous listed website), information on number of speakers of each language within a country, and status of the language (official, etc.)): http://www.ethnologue.com/country_index.asp?place=all


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