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Top World Languages

We have a list of the top 52 world languages by estimated number of native speakers. How many can you guess?
According to Ethnologue (2019) via Wikipedia. I made some common sense modifications.
Chinese and Hindustani languages need to be guessed separately
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: December 28, 2019
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First submittedFebruary 22, 2012
Times taken559,757
Average score38.5%
Rating4.89
8:00
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 / 52 guessed
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#
Language
918 m
Mandarin
480 m
Spanish
379 m
English
341 m
Hindi
> 275 m
Arabic
221 m
Portuguese
228 m
Bengali
154 m
Russian
128 m
Japanese
125 m
Punjabi
90.2 m
German
(inc. Bavarian)
83.1 m
Marathi
82.0 m
Telugu
#
Language
81.4 m
Wu
79.4 m
Turkish
77.3 m
Korean
77.2 m
French
76.0 m
Vietnamese
75.0 m
Tamil
73.1 m
Cantonese
68.6 m
Urdu
68.3 m
Javanese
64.8 m
Italian
> 59 m
Malay /
Indonesian
56.4 m
Gujarati
52.8 m
Persian
#
Language
52.2 m
Bhojpuri
50.1 m
Min Nan
48.2 m
Hakka
46.9 m
Jin
43.9 m
Hausa
43.6 m
Kannada
39.7 m
Polish
37.8 m
Yoruba
37.3 m
Xiang
37.1 m
Malayalam
34.5 m
Odia
33.9 m
Maithili
32.9 m
Burmese
#
Language
32.4 m
Sundanese
31.8 m
Pashto
27.3 m
Ukrainian
27.0 m
Igbo
25.1 m
Uzbek
24.6 m
Sindhi
24.3 m
Romanian
23.6 m
Tagalog
23.1 m
Dutch
22.1 m
Gan
21.9 m
Amharic
20.7 m
Magahi
20.7 m
Thai
+18
Level ∞
Nov 29, 2022
Common sense modifications include grouping the various dialects of Arabic together and grouping Bavarian with German.
+1
Level 56
Dec 13, 2019
Swahili should be on there
+6
Level ∞
Dec 28, 2019
No it shouldn't. Very few people speak it as a first language.
+11
Level 76
Dec 28, 2019
Why does German need the qualifier "inc. Bavarian"? There's no dispute at all over whether Bavarian is a German language or not. It's not even one of the varieties that differ from Standard German the most, like some High/Highest Alemannic or Low Saxon varieties. And those seem to be counted.
+5
Level 68
Sep 21, 2020
Had to scroll all the way down to find this comment I was looking for! I have to assume it's some sort of private or inside joke? I mean, it sure made me giggle, but I agree that it's weird.
+1
Level 59
Sep 6, 2023
Probably something to do with ISO codes and Ethnologue which put them seperately
+2
Level 75
Dec 29, 2019
What are the "common sense modifications" you've made, that you describe in the instructions?
+3
Level ∞
Dec 29, 2019
Combining the various dialects of Arabic into one, as well as East and West Punjabi.
+3
Level 67
Dec 29, 2019
There can't be so few Thai speakers, 20.7m?
+2
Level ∞
Dec 30, 2019
I'm a little confused by that too. If someone wants to dig into the source data, perhaps this can be explained. For some reason, with Ethnologue's latest update, a few languages were splintered. For example, the various dialects of Arabic were separated and I had to combine them. Similarly, Bavarian was listed as different than German. Perhaps some variant of Thai was broken off as well, but the Wikipedia list doesn't show enough languages to find this out.
+1
Level 82
Dec 30, 2019
Looks like there are transcription errors on the Wikipedia article as compared with the underlying source data (https://www.ethnologue.com/guides/ethnologue200). Some of the totals are way off, including Thai (as noted above). The actual list should begin: #1 English (1,132M), #2 Mandarin (1,117M), #3 Hindi (614M), #4 Arabic (593M combined), #5 Spanish (534M). The full list of the the top 75 from the Ethnologue data, with the same combinations/groupings as on this quiz, is here: https://pastebin.com/WgPqYwFZ
+1
Level ∞
Dec 30, 2019
Those numbers clearly include level 2 speakers.
+1
Level 82
Dec 30, 2019
Right. I'm not making a normative point about what the list and speaker totals should be. I'm simply saying that the Wikipedia page purports to cite Ethnologue but at least some of the figures are wrong -- e.g., the entries for Japanese, Western Punjabi, and Korean are the same as the overall Ethnologue totals that as you point out include L1 and L2. I now see that another Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_total_number_of_speakers) does claim to include the L1/L2 breakdown, but there, too, it's evident that there are problems with the data. Maybe that page is at least a better source to link to given the greater transparency about what's actually reported in Ethnologue? It's a tricky topic, for sure.
+1
Level ∞
Jan 9, 2020
Much of the Ethnologue data is hidden behind a pay wall. Someone at Wikipedia was able to get at it and put it on Wikipedia but we don't have access to it unfortunately. That said, the numbers on Wikipedia appear to be accurate.
+1
Level 63
Jan 5, 2020
Does Afrikaans really not have more people who speak it than over 20 million people?
+1
Level ∞
Jan 9, 2020
Afrikaans has only about 7 million L1 speakers.
+1
Level 66
Jan 9, 2020
I'm confused. According to this quiz only 1/3 Thais are native Thai speakers? Seems very unlikely to me.
+1
Level ∞
Jan 9, 2020
I was confused as well. But looking into it a little more, I can see where they got their numbers. Apparently, the official language of Thailand is actually "Central Thai" which is only spoken natively in the central part of Thailand, with various other languages spoken in other parts.
+4
Level ∞
Jan 9, 2020
If you know about the history of language, this isn't surprising. For example, what we think of today is French was really only spoken in the area around Paris prior to the French revolution. Other people spoke the languages of their own region such as Breton, Alsatian, and of course Occitan. It took two centuries of coercion by the central government before French became the native tongue of nearly everyone in the country.
+1
Level 81
Feb 6, 2020
Wikipedia lists Northern Thai (6 million) and Southern Thai (4.5 million) as different languages. In addition there's Isan language with 20 million speakers in Thailand, apparently. Not sure if there are any other sources that agree with this than Ethnologue (which seems like the main source of Wikipedia's speaker data).
+4
Level 70
Jan 26, 2020
German (inc. Bavarian) - lmao. (Bavarian is just a dialect of German - so is Swiss German)
+5
Level 78
Jan 28, 2020
Reads like English (incl. Texan)
+1
Level 65
Jan 27, 2020
Shouldn't Bengali and Portuguese be switched?
+5
Level 75
Jan 28, 2020
I'm surprised Kurdish isn't on the list, as it has at least 30 million speakers.
+2
Level 63
Jan 28, 2020
"Including Bavarian" in the German language is completely unneccessary. Bavarian is just a dialect, so as swabian, hessian, saxonian etc.
+1
Level ∞
Jan 28, 2020
I don't understand your comment. The source separated the two. I put them back together. Since you agree with me that Bavarian is a dialect, not a language, then my decision to combine Bavarian and German was not unnecessary.
+3
Level 78
Jan 28, 2020
I think what Tante means is that even mentioning Bavarian seems ridiculous, as no one considers it to be separate from German. (However, looking at the source, linguists seem to differ. That's news to me.)
+1
Level 84
Jan 28, 2020
I saw the caveat at the top but still, literally all of the ones i missed were of those two
+3
Level 38
Jan 29, 2020
379 million speak English native?

That's wrong population of the US is 320 million

Population of UK is 65 million

Population of Canada is 35 million

Population of Australia is 23 million

Population of New Zealand is 8 million

Population of Ireland is 5 million

Should be 456 million native English speakers

+13
Level 82
Jan 29, 2020
not everyone in those countries are native speakers of English.
+2
Level 71
Mar 7, 2020
Then a percentage of every countries population should be subtracted from the native language numbers. e.g. Not everyone in India speaks Hindi in the Hindi areas or Urdu in the Urdu areas, or Gujarati in the Gujarati areas etc. etc...... you should only use populations for countries, not try and estimate how many are not native speakers with certain countries but not others.
+1
Level 65
Jan 9, 2023
I don't think the quiz numbers are based on this estimation.
+1
Level 46
Jun 11, 2023
NZ has a population around 5 million not 8 :)
+1
Level 73
Feb 1, 2020
Plz accept bahasa for malay/indonesian
+3
Level 58
Feb 18, 2020
'bahasa' is just 'language'. The identifying part in 'bahasa indonesia' is the 'indonesia' part.
+1
Level 67
Mar 2, 2020
Got Jin but missed Japanese 🤦.
+1
Level 54
Mar 10, 2020
I can't get it to accept Sudanese when I type it even though it's listed in the final answers.
+8
Level ∞
Mar 10, 2020
Sundanese, which is a language spoken in parts of Indonesia.
+1
Level 41
Mar 20, 2020
Swahili has about 100 million speakers.
+1
Level 50
Jan 9, 2023
Most are second language speakers
+2
Level 45
Apr 2, 2020
How is Bengali behind Portuguese there is 7 million difference.
+1
Level 57
Feb 6, 2021
Probably Brazil
+2
Level 57
Feb 6, 2021
Then again, I could be wrong.
+1
Level 71
Feb 19, 2024
Bengali and Portuguese are out of order.
+12
Level 56
Apr 20, 2020
How many languages do you want on this quiz?

India: Yes

+1
Level 69
May 18, 2020
Kurdish is missing on this list. According to the source Northern Kurdish has 14.6 million speakers. Wikipedia also states that Central Kurdish has 7.5 million speakers and Southern Kurdish has 3 million speakers. That amounts to more than 25 million speakers.
+1
Level 23
May 19, 2020
I got so many obscure languages like Sindhi and Hakka, but I forgot Japanese...
+4
Level 42
Jun 19, 2020
half of these i typed and it didnt take them
+3
Level 74
Oct 19, 2021
I love this comment because it makes no sense.
+1
Level 62
Aug 17, 2020
Heh. I get the logo, it was in the Bible that stated that they all spoke different languages after all that quarreling, since they didn't understand what they're saying.
+1
Level 14
Aug 28, 2020
I typed in "Chinese" and "Catalan"
+1
Level 56
Sep 12, 2020
Oh wow I didn't miss anything but the Asian languages what a surprise lol
+1
Level 57
Oct 4, 2020
Can you accept Amhara and Maratha?
+4
Level 46
Oct 17, 2020
"Including Bavarian" is silly.
+1
Level 62
Feb 7, 2021
Bavarian is not a language of its own, it's only a dialect. Either take em all (Frisian, Alemann, Cologne-ian, Rhine-ian, Saxonian etc pp) or leave em all...
+1
Level 68
Mar 7, 2021
The linked source has Oromo at 24 million speakers. I don't understand why it hasn't been included on this list.
+1
Level 46
Mar 26, 2021
What about Azerbaijani? There are more than 50 million native speakers
+1
Level 67
Jun 1, 2021
I feel bad because we were learning about Hausa Igbo and Yoruba for AP Comparative Government and Politics
+1
Level 41
Aug 12, 2021
How does jetpunk define a native speaker? Does it include people who speak a second or third language fluently, or only those born to it?
+1
Level 58
Jun 9, 2022
Source
+1
Level 95
Sep 13, 2021
Missed my own first language and the wife's as well. Just figured there weren't enough of either of us to make it on the list but now I feel quite dumb
+1
Level 28
Sep 25, 2021
suprised there is no nordic/scandinavian languages like swedish
+4
Level 47
Sep 28, 2021
Shoutout to the 2% of people who missed Spanish.
+1
Level 26
Nov 14, 2021
i got the badge lets go
+3
Level 80
Jan 20, 2022
and Croatian..:)
+1
Level 55
Jan 23, 2022
WHAT ABOUT SWAHILI
+1
Level 65
Jan 9, 2023
WHAT ABOUT IT????
+1
Level 55
Mar 24, 2022
yo i swear i guessed yoruba
+1
Level 32
Apr 2, 2022
This quiz highlighted my ignorance of world languages. Thank you!
+12
Level 21
Apr 16, 2022
mandarin spanish english hindi arabic portuguese bengali russian japanese punjabi german marathi telugu wu turkish korean french vietnamese tamil cantonese urdu javanese italian malay gujarati persian bhojpuri min nan hakka jin hausa kannada polish yoruba xiang malayalam odia maithili burmese sundanese pashto ukrainian igbo uzbek sindhi romanian tagalog dutch gan Amharic magahi thai
+2
Level 30
Jul 21, 2022
bets comment, thanks!
+1
Level 24
May 13, 2022
So many Indian languages here

India is definitely leading

+1
Level 31
Aug 30, 2022
wtf
+1
Level 67
Sep 30, 2022
Got Yoruba, Igbo, Amharic... but forgot Japanese this time around. How.
+1
Level 60
Nov 19, 2022
Azeri languages is spoken by more then 30M
+1
Level 63
Dec 14, 2022
This is incorrect.
+1
Level 89
Jan 9, 2023
Well you certainly proved us wrong with that comment...
+1
Level 63
Dec 21, 2022
How did I miss Dutch but get Jin?
+2
Level 15
Jan 9, 2023
Zulu -> 27,8M but not present
+2
Level 67
Jan 9, 2023
French is spoken as a first language by way more than 77 million people. That's such an absurdly low figure. More Jetpunk bias as usual I guess.
+1
Level 81
May 22, 2023
🥹
+2
Level 54
Aug 31, 2023
The quiz only counts native speakers.
+1
Level 24
Jan 9, 2023
According to Wikipedia there are in the world 321 million people speaking french, not 77 !
+3
Level 56
Jan 10, 2023
not natively
+1
Level 56
Jan 10, 2023
i always forget bhojpuri
+1
Level 24
Jan 15, 2023
Igbo, Sudanese, Uzbek and Amharic I refuse to believe are more spoken than Swahili. There are roughly 71-135 million Swahili speakers, it is approximately the 13th most spoken language in the world.
+1
Level 71
Mar 29, 2023
It's native speakers and Swahili is more of a lingua franca. And also it's Sundanese, completely different.
+1
Level 21
Feb 13, 2023
Guy I'm sorry but the numbers about french speakers are totally wrong just in Rd Congo who's a french country there is around 100 millions people
+2
Level 83
Apr 21, 2023
But most French speakers in African countries speak it as a second language, and not everyone in countries with French as an official language actually speaks French
+1
Level 59
Mar 28, 2023
Can you please accept Chinese for Mandarin!
+1
Level 60
Oct 6, 2023
Please read the caveats.
+1
Level 37
Apr 21, 2023
Forgot Korean and speak Korean
+1
Level 67
Aug 4, 2023
Couldn't spell Malayalam
+1
Level 71
Aug 27, 2023
Is there a version of this that's not just native languages (e.g. includes second languages)?
+1
Level 60
Sep 26, 2023
Tried Fula, and when that didnt work, didnt try hausa.
+1
Level 60
Sep 26, 2023
and where would Fula be anyway?
+2
Level 33
Dec 16, 2023
I know, I know, dialects differ, but couldn't we consider Chinese one language and make the quiz a thousand times easier?
+1
Level 28
Dec 20, 2023
As a Chinese, I'd say that Cantonese, Hakka and Wu can indeed be seen as languages for they have unique words, characters, grammers and sounds (what is Wu remains to be discussed), but Xiang, Jin, Min Nan and Gan are definitely dialects, for they just pronounce a little bit different from Mandarin, and they don't have unique grammers and characters. Name of these dialects are also typical Mandarin pinyin. Compared with them, Chuan (Sichuan) dialect and Shaanxi dielect are no less different from Mandarin.

Just a little suggestion❤

+1
Level 69
Jan 21, 2024
Serbocroatian?
+1
Level 18
Feb 26, 2024
Dam! I just can't spell Amharic! It's ok if you don't remember all the Chinese/Indian regional languages, but l just don't quite know how l remember Tagalog and Nigeria's big three tongues yet forgot Japanese, Javanese, Korean and Ukrainian... Pressure, pressure.
+1
Level 18
Feb 26, 2024
Was also surprised by the exclusion of Swahili.