The most Spoken Languages in the World - 1900/2020

Posts1199Likes772Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
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I stumbled upon this last month and thought I would share it. It’s a video of a chart showing the number of speakers of the most spoken world languages as it changed from 1900 to 2020. 


I’m definitely a language nerd. Although it’s very straight-forward, I find the video really interesting. This is in part due to my desire, beginning about 15 years ago, to be able to speak to most people on the planet in their native tongues. So I’ve kept my own informal chart over the years, showing which percentage of the world’s population I can talk to. 


The chart in the video is different, but it’s cool that I can speak 4 of the top 5 languages. I also think it’s interesting how certain languages have changed rank over the past 120 years. For example, English surpassed Mandarin about 6 years ago. 


Another thing I noticed is that Wikipedia finally updated their List of languages by total number of speakers. For instance, they’ve put English first. And they’ve finally admitted that Swahili is spoken by nearly 100m people, making it 14th overall. They always used the number of native speakers before, rather than total speakers, due to lack of data I assume, so it was way down the list. There are still obvious problems though. They are only listing 45m Filipino speakers. I don’t know where that number came from – there are 110m Filipinos, and probably 99% of them speak Filipino. Oh well; at least they’ve made some progress.  


I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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Posts18Likes13Joined1/6/2020LocationLondon / GB
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Great post!

leosmith wrote:
There are still obvious problems though. They are only listing 45m Filipino speakers. I don’t know where that number came from – there are 110m Filipinos, and probably 99% of them speak Filipino. Oh well; at least they’ve made some progress.


I found this weird, looked more into it. The table has been copied from SIL's 2019 edition of Ethnologue (paywalled), which apparently makes a distinction between Tagalog and Filipino, where Tagalog has 24 million native speakers and Filipino has 45 million L2 speakers. 


Now I don't know much about this, but Wikipedia seems to say that Tagalog and Filipino are synonyms, in practice. The wiki page for Tagalog counts both numbers given above (so 79M total), while the one for Filipino only counts L2 speakers. I'd wager that the SIL table has not been correctly copied, basically: if Tagalog and Filipino are seen as being equivalent, then the language would have 79 million speakers and come in at the 23rd position. 


There was some discussion about the Tagalog/Filipino equivalence on this page in 2018, but it was never resolved. I think it's safe to edit the page. 

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Posts1199Likes772Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
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Soup wrote:
The wiki page for Tagalog counts both numbers given above (so 79M total)

But 24 + 45 = 69. This number seems quite low to me, as does 79. From my travels, it seems everyone speaks Tagalog/Filipino. Of course that's not scientific, and I could be wrong. But:

Wiki discussion wrote:
The National Statistics Office (now Philippine Statistics Authority) reports that over 80% of the population of the Philippines can speak its national language.

That was 2018. 80% of 110m = 88m. So it should be over 88m by this logic.

I'm reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

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