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Visualizing the World’s Languages

Could you guess how many living languages there are? How about which language has the most native speakers?

The Washington Post’s Rick Noack and Lazaro Gamio help make visual sense of the world’s languages, in 7 maps and charts. Their maps are a treasure trove for multilinguals and those generally curious about language. We’ve included several of them below with our observations, but we’d encourage you to follow the link and explore these interactive language visualizations for yourself. After you check out the maps and charts, let us know what you found most interesting in the comments.

Which continent has the most (and least) linguistic diversity?

You may be surprised to learn there are over 7,100 living languages. Asia has the most linguistic diversity with 2,301 living languages, while Europe has the least with (just!) 286. However, nearly half of the world’s languages are projected to become extinct over the course of the next century as 2,000 languages have fewer than 1,000 native speakers.

Language diversity by continent

 

 

 

 

 

Which countries are most linguistically diverse?

The map below (interactive on the Washington Post) shows that despite America’s immigrant heritage, we are linguistically homogeneous compared to many African, Asian, and European nations. According to Greenberg’s diversity index, there’s a 33% chance that two randomly selected Americans will have a different native language.

Language diversity map

Which languages have the most native speakers?

This visual shows the languages with the most native speakers. Chinese leads the way with nearly 1.4 billion native speakers, followed by Hindi and Urdu. If you divide the number of native speakers of the 12 languages below by total world population, you’ll discover that approximately two-thirds of the world claims one of these languages as their native tongue.

Diversity of Languages WAPO

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