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Languages Share

Languages of the World

The languages of the world are a real "Tower of Babel." Those who spend their life studying such things cannot even agree on the number of languages and discussions generally devolve to discussing what is a language and what is a dialect.

It is not our intention here to get involved in that discussion, but to use what has been done to organize this site in a way that makes finding available resources possible.

The two most commonly used lists of languages are referred to as ISO 639-2, containing 541 entries and ISO 639-3, containing 8,141 entries as of January, 2016.

ISO 639-2 sorted by English Name.

ISO 639-3 sorted by ISO code.

Perhaps the most informative site is at Wikipedia

Except as noted, we will use the ISO 639-3 codes to organize the languages used here.

Gateway Languages

Certain languages are considered Gateway Languages in that they are used widely in areas which share multiple languages and people living in the area can be found to translate into the native language. For instance French is considered a Gateway Language for much of Africa. In fact there are more French speakers in Africa than in France.

Unfolding Word is an organization that is working to provide Bible Study materials in as many languages as possible. They have identified the following languages as Gateway Languages.

Americas, 3 (+2):

  • English (en)
  • Spanish (es, es-419)
  • Portuguese (pt, pt-BR)

Africa, 6 (+1):

  • Arabic (ar, ar-x-dcv)
  • French (fr)
  • Swahili (sw)
  • Amharic (am)
  • Hausa (ha)
  • Afrikaans (af)

Eurasia, 5 (+2):

  • Russian (ru)
  • Turkish (tr)
  • Persian (fa)
  • Pashto (ps)
  • Urdu (ur, ur-x-dcv, ur-Deva)

South Asia, 12 (+1):

  • Nepali (ne)
  • Hindi (hi, hi-x-dcv)
  • Bengali (bn)
  • Gujarati (gu)
  • Punjabi (pa)
  • Oriya (or)
  • Assamese (as)
  • Marathi (mr)
  • Kannada (kn)
  • Tamil (ta)
  • Telugu (te)
  • Malayalam (ml)

Asia, 10 (+1):

  • Mongolian (mn)
  • Mandarin (zh)
  • Burmese (my)
  • Thai (th)
  • Laotian (lo)
  • Khmer (kh)
  • Vietnamese (vi)
  • Malaysian (ms, ms-x-dcv)
  • Tagalog (tl)
  • Cebuano (ceb)

Pacific, 13 (+1):

  • Indonesian (id, id-x-dcv)
  • Papuan Malay (pmy)
  • Ambon Malay (abs)
  • Bahasa Manado (xmm)
  • Kaliledo (Ledo Kaili,lew)
  • Toraja (sda)
  • Banjar (bjn)
  • Maleyu (mgl)
  • Kupang (mkn)
  • Tok Pisin (tpi)
  • Solomon Islands Pidgin (pis)
  • Bislama (bi)
  • Tetum (tet)


Languages by number of speakers

The number of people who speak a language natively (L1) is sometimes eclipsed by those who have learned it as a 2nd language (L2). It is generally agreed among linguists that 85% of the world can understand in one of the top 100 languages.

Top 100 Languages

Page last modified on February 08, 2016, at 08:04 PM