LINGUIST List 26.2813

Mon Jun 08 2015

FYI: Interactive Map: The Second Most Spoken Languages Around the World

Editor for this issue: Ashley Parker <>

Date: 05-Jun-2015
From: Matt Zajechowski <>
Subject: Interactive Map: The Second Most Spoken Languages Around the World
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Typically, the official language of any country is also the most spoken language in that country. But what can the second-most spoken language tell you about that country? In many cases, knowing the second-most spoken language
can tell you about that country’s ethnic heritage, their educated class, the language that they do business in, and how global that country is.

For example, in the United States, Spanish is the second-most spoken language throughout the country. However, in several states (Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont), French is the most commonly spoken second language. And, to further reflect the United States’ reputation as a melting pot, more than 60 million Americans speak a language at home other than English; of these, over 58% self-reported to the U.S. Census Bureau that they spoke
English “very well.”

In South America, people might be surprised to learn that the second most common language in Brazil is German. There are estimated to be 3 million German speakers in Brazil, and people speak both traditional German and
Brazilian dialects of German. Another interesting revelation is that Italian is the second most spoken language in Argentina. As much as 97% of Argentina’s population identifying as “white” identify as ethnically Italian, and there
are reported to be around 600,000 Italian speakers in Argentina.

In Europe, where people are often fluent in more than one language, the second-most spoken language varies greatly among countries. Catalan, German, Gaelic, South Asian, Finnish, and even regional or indigenous dialects are
among the several different second-most spoken languages in Europe. In Africa, the second-most spoken languages are most commonly indigenous or tribal languages unique to that specific country. English and French are also
common “lingua francas” throughout Africa. Finally, in Asia and Oceania, English is the second-most spoken language in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia.

To see a map of the second most spoken languages around the world, check out this interactive map from Olivet Nazarene University

Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation

Page Updated: 08-Jun-2015