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Which countries speak the most languages?

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A vast array of languages are spoken around the world, but they're not all evenly distributed. There are huge differences between the volume of languages spoken from one country to another. In this post, we will find out which countries speak the most languages and which languages have the most speakers, so that you can take it into account in your brands' internationalisation strategy.

For this purpose, we will focus on the annual publication Ethnologue created by non-profit organisation SIL International.

This publication does not account for people who speak more than one language, but we will take a look at that issue at the end of this post.. One key point to highlight is that the geographical distribution of languages is not homogeneous.64% of the world's living languages are concentrated in Asia and Africa, 15% in the Americas, and just 4% in Europe and the Middle East. The main reasons for this huge difference is to be found in globalisation and the existence of small regions where minority languages are spoken, especially in Asia or Africa.

The countries with the most languages

Off all the countries with the largest number of languages, Papua New Guinea has the greatest wealth of linguistic diversity. Three times more languages are spoken there than in Europe. On the other hand, North Korea takes last place, with only one language spoken: Korean. Other countries with scarce linguistic diversity are Iceland, with two languages, and South Korea and Haiti with three. Let's see what countries are in the top ranking.

  1. Papua New Guinea: 839 languages
  2. Indonesia: 707 languages
  3. Nigeria: 526 languages
  4. India: 454 languages
  5. United States: 422 languages
  6. China: 300 languages
  7. Mexico: 289 languages

Taking into account the large variety of languages coexisting in certain countries, let's now take a look at the languages with the most speakers. It is currently calculated that 7,000 different languages are spoken around the world, but which ones have the most speakers? Let's see:

  1. English: 942 million speakers
  2. Mandarin Chinese: 800 million speakers
  3. Spanish: 472 million speakers
  4. Hindi: 260 million speakers
  5. Arabic: 250 million speakers

This data is of interest when implementing a global communication strategy. Analysing the markets into which a business is expanding, and the languages spoken there, is vital for ensuring correct content localisation.