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How Many Languages Are There in the World?

There 7,099 distinct languages spoken around the world according to the 2017 Ethnologue language database.

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There are about 7,099 languages spoken in the world. This number is constantly increasing because new world’s languages emerge every day. These languages are dynamic and living. With modernization, a third of these languages face the risk of extinction. Many factors such as the spread of old civilizations, terrain, and cultural history determine the number of languages spoken in a particular region. The Asian continent has the largest percentage in terms of the number of languages spoken, which is 32%. About 2,300 languages are spoken across the continent. The Africa continent follows closely with 30%. There are an estimated 2,000 languages spoken on the continent of Africa. Pacific is third with 18.5%, the Americas are fourth with 15%, and Europe is last with 4%. 

Countries with Hundreds of Languages

Throughout the world, languages are not equally distributed. Some countries record a higher number of spoken languages than others. They include:

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse country in the world. It has more than twice the number of languages spoken across Europe. It is a multilingual nation with over 840 languages spoken, with twelve of them lacking many speakers. The popular language is spoken by over 200,000 people. Some of the languages have less than 1,000 speakers. The local languages in Papua New Guinea fall under two categories: Austronesia and Non-Austronesia. Papua New Guinea’s official languages are Tok, Hiri Mtu, English, and sign language.

Indonesia

Indonesia has 709 languages spoken. The Indonesian language is the country’s official language. Here, most languages are Austronesian. Other regional languages spoken include Javanese, Sundanese, Minangkabau, and Musi.

Nigeria

There are 527 languages spoken in Nigeria. However, Nigeria has many other unclassified languages. The languages in Nigeria fall under families such as Niger-Congo family language and Afro-Asiatic family language. However, the official language is English. Regional languages include Hausa, Igbo, and sign language.

India

There are 454 languages spoken in India, with English and Hindi being official. The Hindi language is profoundly spoken and it is the fourth widely spoken in the world. Today there are 422,048,642 speakers of Hindi in India. Other languages in India include Bengali, Telugu, and Odia among others. India has the most official languages of any country at 22.

United States of America

There are 347 languages spoken in the United States with the English language being supreme. The immigrants from other countries like Mexico, Germany, Arabia, Spain, and Russia have greatly influenced demographic patterns in the United States of America.

China

China has more than 300 languages spoken. The languages are popular in Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China mainland. The popular language is Mandarin Chinese spoken by more than 955 million people. However, Standard Chinese is the official language. Cantonese is also an official language with other regional ones such as Wu Chinese, sign language, and English.

Other Countries with Most Spoken Languages

There are other countries with diverse spoken languages. These include Mexico with 290, Cameroon with 280, Australia with 259, and Brazil with 227. Spanish is the popular language in Mexico but Amerindian is the original language. Cameroon’s official languages are English and French while in Australia, Arabic, English, Italian, and Greek are dominant. On the other hand, in Brazil the official language is Portuguese. The Portuguese spoken also goes by the name Brazilian Portuguese.

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