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The World's Main Languages

Following is a table showing the world's 20 main languages. We also have a list of two-letter language indicators taken from the ISO 639 standard; these codes are used on the Internet to flag languages in accordance with RFC 1766 recommendations.

Click on the hyperlinks in the table to download information on a language's history, writing, computer considerations, etc.

The World's Main Languages

Language Family Principal locations Number of speakers
(estimated in millions)
Chinese Sino-Tibetan China885
English Indo-European (Germanic group) North America, Great Britain, Australia, South Africa 450
Hindi-Urdu Indo-European (Indo-Iranian group) India, Pakistan 333
Spanish Indo-European (Romance group) South America, Spain 266
Portuguese Indo-European (Romance group) Brazil, Portugal 175
Bengali Indo-European (Indo-Iranian group) Bangladesh, India 162
Russian Indo-European (Slavic group) Former Soviet Union 153
Arabic Afro-Asiatic North Africa, Middle East 150
Japanese Altaic Japan 126
French Indo-European (Romance group) France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Black Africa 122
German Indo-European (Germanic group) Germany, Austria, Switzerland 118
Wu Sino-Tibetan China (Shanghai) 77
Javanese Austronesian Indonesia (Java) 75
Korean Altaic Korea 72
Italian Indo-European (Romance group) Italy 63
Marathi Indo-European (Indo-Iranian group) South India 65
Telugu Dravidian South India 55
Tamil Dravidian South India, Sri Lanka 48
Cantonese Sino-Tibetan China (Canton) 47
Ukrainian Indo-European (Slavic group) Ukraine 46

Source: Ethnologue, 12th edition, Dallas, Texas, USA, 1992.


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The Tango Multilingual Browser will properly display all of Babel's languages. © 1996, 1997, 1998 Alis Technologies inc.

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