Languages of the World

Contrary to the popular misconception that India has the most no. of different languages that are spoken in one country, the title actually belongs to the nation of Papua New Guinea. While a total of 840 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea, over 453 languages are spoken in India and it holds the distinction of 4th most linguistically diverse nation in the world.

What has happened?

  • The year 2019 is the United Nations has declared the year of International Year of Indigenous Languages.
  • Earlier in UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues which was held in 2016 had stated that over “40% of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken” are in danger of disappearing due to lack of speakers.
  • While most languages in the list are “endangered”.
  • In some languages, (Tiniguan -Colombian origin), the language is spoken by only one speaker.

Who lists these values?

  • All these languages are listed by Ethnologue which is a directory of languages.
  • It lists all languages world-wide languages which are used by people in daily conversation. Such languages are 7,111 in number.
  • If only the first-languages are listed, then the Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic are the most widely spoken languages worldwide.
  • Together, these five languages account for a total of 40% speakers worldwide.
  • In the developed world, the U.S. (with over 335 languages spoken by its citizens) and Australia (with over 319 languages spoken by its citizens) are the most linguistically diverse countries of the world.
  • Most indigenous languages are spoken in Asia and Africa which together account for the highest number of indigenous languages with over 70% of the total spoken in these regions.

What is history?

Historically, since 1950, a total of 228 languages have gone extinct since 1950. In India, in the same duration, 5 languages have gone extinct and another 42 languages are critically endangered,



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