Just The Facts

One Country, More than 800 Languages

What are the three most linguistically-diverse countries today?

Takeaways


  • There are at least 7,102 known languages still spoken in the world today.
  • Papua New Guinea has 839 languages -- the highest number of languages spoken as a first language in a single country.

1. There are at least 7,102 known languages still spoken in the world today.

2. Many of these languages are spoken only by a very small number of people and may become extinct soon.

3. The highest number of languages spoken as a first language in a single country today is 839, according to the UN’s cultural heritage agency.

4. This astonishing record is held by the large mountainous island nation of Papua New Guinea.

5. This is all the more remarkable as Papua New Guinea, located near Australia and next to Indonesia, has a population of only 7 million.

6. The nation with the second-highest level of language diversity in the world is neighboring Indonesia.

7. The Indonesian population of 264 million speaks some 707 languages, well over 100 fewer than Papua New Guinea.

8. However, sizable communities speak many of Indonesia’s languages. The largest, Javanese, is natively spoken by 84.3 million people.

9. In contrast, many of Papua New Guinea’s languages are spoken only by a very limited number of people.

10. The country with the third-highest level of language diversity is Nigeria with 526 languages, including most prominently Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.

Sources: The Globalist Research Center, UNESCO, World Economic Forum

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