Just The Facts

Over 400 Languages: India and the United States

The world’s second- and third-most populous countries share a linguistic diversity.

Takeaways


  • India and the US rank fourth and fifth respectively for the number of natively-spoken languages.
  • In India, which is well known for its many languages, at least 454 different languages are spoken as a mother tongue.

1. India and the United States, the second- and third-most populous countries, rank fourth and fifth respectively for the number of natively-spoken languages in the population.

2. These two world powers rank below Papua New Guinea (839), Indonesia (707) and Nigeria (526).

3. In India, which is well known for its many languages, at least 454 different languages are spoken as a mother tongue.

4. Unlike centralized China, the world’s other billion-person country, India remains a union of relatively decentralized states with their own unique identities.

5. Of India’s 1.3 billion population, only 260 million speak Hindi as a first language, leaving plenty of space for other hundreds of other major languages.

6. An additional 52 million Indians speak Urdu, which is mutually intelligible with Hindi but uses a different writing script.

7. After Hindi, the second largest mother tongue among Indians is Bengali (83 million native speakers in India).

8. The third largest language in India, Telugu, is spoken by 74 million, while Marathi, the fourth largest, is spoken by 72 million.

9. In the United States, with one billion fewer people than India, 422 languages are spoken natively.

10. That linguistic diversity is heavily a reflection of the country’s status as a melting pot for families of immigrants from every nation on earth.

11. But the United States’ first-language diversity also derives from the many indigenous American nations within the United States.

12. English and Spanish speakers dominate among U.S. mother tongues, with 225 million and 38 million native speakers there respectively.

13. Many other European languages – and languages from across East and South Asia– are spoken in U.S. homes, too.

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

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