How Many Native Languages Are Spoken In Mexico?

By Antonia Čirjak on June 16 2020 in Answer

Tepozltan, Morelos, Mexico 03/01/2020 Magic town of Tepoztlan, parish of our lady of Nativity church, built by indigenous people. Image credit: FERNANDO MACIAS ROMO / Shutterstock.com
Tepozltan, Morelos, Mexico 03/01/2020 Magic town of Tepoztlan, parish of our lady of Nativity church, built by indigenous people. Image credit: FERNANDO MACIAS ROMO / Shutterstock.com
  • Even though the Spanish language is the most widespread in Mexico, there are many other indigenous (native) languages spoken in the country to this day.
  • These languages come from eleven language families, and the Mexican government actually recognizes 68 national languages. Out of these 68, 63 are native languages.
  • The most commonly used indigenous language in Mexico is Nahuatl. This language is a part of the Uto-Aztecan family of languages and is spoken today by 1,376,026 people in Mexico.
  • The actual number of indigenous languages spoken in Mexico is larger than 63, but the classification counts different dialects and variations as just one language.

Mexico is known as a country that has a rich history and culture. It is recognized as one of the six cradles of civilization, and the tribes that lived there left an important mark on the history of our planet. The Aztecs and the Mayans are the most commonly mentioned ones, but many other smaller tribes were living in Mexico before the country was colonized. Naturally, this left a mark on the population and the lifestyles in the country that can still be felt today. One area where it can be seen more than elsewhere are the languages that are spoken in Mexico.

Spanish is the official language in the country; other languages that are somewhat common are English and German. However, even though the Spanish language is the most widespread in Mexico, there are many other indigenous (native) languages spoken in the country to this day. These languages come from eleven language families, and the Mexican government actually recognizes 68 national languages. Out of these 68, 63 are native languages.

What Is The Official Language?

Spanish is used most often for all official purposes of the government, but it is not the official primary language when looking at legislation. In 2003, a law was approved by the Mexican Congress that aimed to recognize the rich history of Mexico and determine how the country will look at all of the languages that are spoken there.

It was the General Law of Linguistic Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, and through this law, the indigenous languages spoken in Mexico were made to be national languages.

 credit: Benson Truong / Shutterstock.com
Mexico City. Image credit: Benson Truong / Shutterstock.com

It was determined that all of these languages should be valued equally, and as much as the Spanish language is. The law takes location, context, and territory into the equation, and does not give any type of official status to the Spanish language.

This means that anyone can use their native language when dealing with the government in Mexico, and the official documents they request can be in their language. This is largely because the state of Mexico aims to preserve its rich culture, and it also promotes the usage of native languages through various activities and institutes.

The Most Common Native Languages

The most commonly used indigenous language in Mexico is Nahuatl. This language is a part of the Uto-Aztecan family of languages and is spoken today by 1,376,026 people in Mexico. It is mostly spoken in Veracruz, Puebla, and Hidalgo. The second most common indigenous language is Yucatec Maya, with 759,000 speakers. This language is spoken in the Yucatan peninsula, which should not be surprising at all. Mixtec is the third most common indigenous language, and it is spoken throughout southwestern Mexico. There are currently 423,216 speakers of this language in Mexico.

Traditional mexican crafts vendors at taxco guerrero.
Traditional Mexican crafts vendors at taxco Guerrero.

These are not the only languages that have a larger number of speakers, however. Zapotec, Tzeltal Maya, and Tzotzil Maya all have more than 300,000 speakers. Continuing the list, Otona, Totomac, and Mazatec all have over 200,000 speakers. The number of speakers for the subsequent languages on the list of the most common native languages starts to fall off, which makes sense seeing as how many of them are endangered. However, all these languages show us what a rich heritage and culture the country of Mexico has, and all of the efforts to preserve them are certainly praiseworthy.

The Number Of Native Languages

The actual number of indigenous languages spoken in Mexico is larger than 63, but the classification counts different dialects and variations as just one language. This goes to show how rich the culture of Mexico is and why it should be preserved. It is believed that there are around 350 different dialects of the 63 officially recognized languages.

Of course, while the law does state that all of these languages can be officially used, Spanish is still the dominant one, but it is expected that with time, more variety will be shown in the usage of languages. Since many of the languages are endangered, the goal should be to preserve them.

credit: Marotoson / Shutterstock.com
Since many people that live in Mexico are immigrants or from an immigrant descent, it comes as no surprise that other languages are being spoken in the country as well. Image credit: Marotoson / Shutterstock.com

Since many people that live in Mexico are immigrants or from an immigrant descent, it comes as no surprise that other languages are being spoken in the country as well. English and German are the most prominent ones. Naturally, given the proximity to the United States, it makes sense that English is spoken in Mexico. Some other languages that are used sometimes are Italian, Portuguese, French, and Greek, among others.

How Many Native Languages Are Spoken In Mexico?

RankLanguageSpeakers
1Nahuatl (Nahuatl, Nahuat, Nahual, Macehualtlahtol, Melatahtol)1,376,026
2Yucatec Maya (Maaya t'aan)759,000
3Mixtec (Tu'un sávi)423,216
4Zapotec (Diidxaza)410,901
5Tzeltal Maya (K'op o winik atel)371,730
6Tzotzil Maya (Batsil k'op)329,937
7Otomí (Hñä hñü)239,850
8Totonac (Tachihuiin)230,930
9Mazatec (Ha shuta enima)206,559
10Ch'ol (Mayan) (Winik)185,299
11Huastec (Téenek)149,532
12Chinantec (Tsa jujmí)125,706
13Mixe (Ayüük)115,824
14Mazahua (Jñatho)111,840
15Purépecha (P'urhépecha)105,556
16Tlapanec (Me'phaa)98,573
17Tarahumara (Rarámuri)75,371
18Amuzgo (Tzañcue)43,761
19Chatino (Cha'cña)42,791
20Tojolab'al (Tojolwinik otik)43,169
21Popoluca (Zoquean) (Tuncápxe)54,004
22Chontal de Tabasco (Yokot t'an)43,850
23Huichol (Wixárika)35,724
24Mayo (Yoreme)32,702
25Tepehuán (O'dam and Ódami)31,681
26Trique (Tinujéi)24,491
27Cora (Naáyarite)17,086
28Popoloca (Oto-manguean)18,926
29Huave (Ikoods)15,993
30Cuicatec (Nduudu yu)12,610
31Yaqui (Yoem Noki or Hiak Nokpo)14,162
32Q'anjob'al10,833
33Tepehua (Hamasipini)10,625
34Pame (Xigüe)9,768
35Mam (Qyool)8,739
36Chontal de Oaxaca (Slijuala sihanuk)5,534
37Chuj2,143
38Tacuate (Mixtec de Santa María Zacatepec) (Tu'un Va'a)2,067
39Chichimeca jonaz (Úza)1,987
40Guarijío (Warihó)1,905
41Chocho (Runixa ngiigua)1,078
42Pima Bajo (Oob No'ok)836
43Q'eqchí (Q'eqchí)835
44Lacandón (Hach t'an)731
45Jakaltek (Poptí) (Abxubal)584
46Matlatzinca/Ocuilteco (Tlahuica)522
47Seri (Cmiique iitom)518
48Ixcatec406
49K'iche'286
50Kaqchikel230
51Paipai (Jaspuy pai)221
52Cucapá (Kuapá)206
53Mototzintleco (Qatok)186
54Kumiai (Ti'pai)185
55Pápago (O'odham)153
56Kikapú (Kikapoa)144
57Ixil108
58Cochimí (Laymón, mti'pá)96
59Kiliwa language (Ko'lew)55
60Aguacatec27
61Other languages337

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