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How Many Languages in the World?
If I were to ask you how many languages are there in the world, what would your answer be? 50? 100? 200? Well, you might be shocked to hear the real answer.
According to Ethnologue a language resource site that’s trusted by both academics and Fortune 500 companies, there are around 7,111 languages in the world.
You may be wondering how there could be that many languages, but you’re not alone! Most people aren’t aware of just how diverse our world is.
One of the reasons is that of the approximately 7,111 languages in the world, only about 10% is spoken by the majority of the world’s population. The rest is spoken by small groups across different countries with less than 1,000 speakers per language for most.
Languages in the world by country
With only 23 languages in the world being spoken by about half of the world’s population, it’s easy to assume a lower number.
Here is a breakdown of the top ten countries with the most languages in the world:
- Papua New Guinea – 840 languages
- Indonesia – 710 languages
- Nigeria – 524 languages
- India – 453 languages
- United States – 335 languages
- Australia – 319 languages
- China – 305 languages
- Mexico – 292 languages
- Cameroon – 275 languages
- Brazil – 228 languages
What is an official language?
If you look at the data that we mentioned above, it’s important to note that it doesn’t account for the distinction between official and unofficial languages.
An official language is any language that has been given legal status in a country. It is the language of the government, and isn’t always spoken by the people of that specific country.
While some countries have one or more official languages, there are others, like the United States, who have never declared an official language.
What is an unofficial language?
An unofficial language is one that is not recognized by the government of a country; however, it could be widely used by the people of that country.
For example, English is an unofficial language in the United States, and while it hasn’t been given any special legal status, most of the residents use it as their primary language.
What are the most spoken languages in the world?
Now that you know how many languages there are, you might be interested in learning what the most spoken languages are.
Depending on where you live, you will have different answers from a person living across the world.
If you guessed Mandarin Chinese as the top language, you’re absolutely right! Mandarin has over 1 billion speakers across 7 countries, making it number one. Other languages such as Spanish, English, Hindi and Japanese are popular too.
Check out our post of the Top 10 Most Spoken Languages in the World to see the full list and more details about each language!
Which languages are the easiest to learn?
Whether you only know one language or 7 languages, learning a new language can be a really rewarding and fun endeavor.
While there are some challenging languages to learn for sure, there are also a ton of languages that aren’t as difficult to learn as you’d think (especially if you’re already an English speaker).
You could try some Latin languages such as Spanish or Italian, or why not Swedish or Norwegian, which are also surprisingly not so difficult to learn.
Here is our full list of the top 10 Easiest Languages to Learn as an English Speaker! Some of these might surprise you.
Which languages are the hardest to learn?
If you’re looking for a challenge, then there are tons of languages out there that will give you a run for your money!
Every language takes time, effort, and patience, but some are just more difficult than others.
One aspect that automatically makes a language harder to learn than others is the language’s alphabet or character system. If this system differs a lot from your native tongue, it provide quite the headache when trying to learn it.
So languages such as Chinese, Arabic or Russian are some of the most difficult for English speakers to learn because they don’t use the English alphabet.
Luckily for you, we’ve already compiled The Top 10 Hardest Languages to Learn for English Speakers so that you can see which languages are worthy of your dedication and which ones aren’t.
World languages are constantly changing
Although there are 7,111 languages in the world right now, that number is going to change. That’s because more and more languages are dying and becoming extinct each day.
The reason is because a large majority of the world’s languages are spoken only by a small number of people. And when a language ceases to be spoken by children, there is a high probability of that language dying once its speakers die.
There is hope, however, for endangered languages. As long as children are being encouraged to preserve their native languages, there is a better chance that the world will continue to have such a diverse catalogue of languages.
Languages in the World
So now that you know how many languages there are in the world, which are you going to learn?