I stumbled upon this last month and thought I would share it. It’s a video of a chart showing the number of speakers of the most spoken world languages as it changed from 1900 to 2020.
I’m definitely a language nerd. Although it’s very straight-forward, I find the video really interesting. This is in part due to my desire, beginning about 15 years ago, to be able to speak to most people on the planet in their native tongues. So I’ve kept my own informal chart over the years, showing which percentage of the world’s population I can talk to.
The chart in the video is different, but it’s cool that I can speak 4 of the top 5 languages. I also think it’s interesting how certain languages have changed rank over the past 120 years. For example, English surpassed Mandarin about 6 years ago.
Another thing I noticed is that Wikipedia finally updated their List of languages by total number of speakers. For instance, they’ve put English first. And they’ve finally admitted that Swahili is spoken by nearly 100m people, making it 14th overall. They always used the number of native speakers before, rather than total speakers, due to lack of data I assume, so it was way down the list. There are still obvious problems though. They are only listing 45m Filipino speakers. I don’t know where that number came from – there are 110m Filipinos, and probably 99% of them speak Filipino. Oh well; at least they’ve made some progress.