Which Are The Most Multilingual Countries In The World?
Last Updated on: January 7, 2023 by Aman Jha | Fact Checked
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Prior to discussing nations with several official languages, let’s clarify that we’re talking about the vast majority of countries on the planet. Acquiring a second language may seem like an adventure to those of us who grew up in monolingual countries, but for many people throughout the world, learning a second or even third language is just part of everyday life.
This list includes some of the world’s most multilingual countries. Because the United States, which has a population of nearly 325 million, would have qualified based only on the number of languages spoken, our requirements are broader. As an alternative, we’ve looked at places where speaking many languages is a regular part of daily life, such as countries like Japan and the Czech Republic.
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Which Countries Have The Broadest Range of Languages?
Our first stop is Europe. Switzerland (with its four official languages) and Belgium (with its three official languages) may be included on this list, however, like the majority of the continent’s multilingual countries, they have large populations of monolingual speakers living in isolated settlements. Luxembourg, on the other hand, may take pleasure in being an exception to the general rule.
Luxembourg is a minor principality in Europe with three official languages: French, German, and Luxembourgish (Luxembourgish being the third). However, they are all included in the educational system and official papers, despite their small appearance. As a result, it is possible to describe the country as a completely trilingual civilization, which is both rare and astounding.
Several republics emerged from the ashes of Yugoslavia, including Serbia. The official language of Serbia is Serbian, although the country’s rich history allows for the sound of a variety of other languages to be heard.
As a result of Soviet influence, the older generations of Serbian speakers still speak Russian, and as Serbian is closely related to Bosnian, Croatian, and Montenegrin, all four languages are mutually intelligible… You may also hear Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, and Albanian in some areas (mostly close to the borders of the respective countries).
There are six official languages in Vojvodina alone: Hungarian, Serbian, Romanian, Croatian, Slovak, and Rusyn (a dialect of Slovak) (Ruthenian). Bulgarian is spoken on occasion in central Serbia, so be prepared if you go there.
Even though Macedonian and Slovenian were both spoken in Yugoslavia, it’s possible to run into someone who can comprehend and speak both languages.
Also, English is taught as a required subject in schools from an early age. Even though German is not required, it is highly prized by Serbia’s economic migrants, who always have their sights set on Austria, as an optional subject.
Serbian has two alphabets, Latin and Cyrillic, thus we should not forget about it. Either way, the “write as you speak” idea holds true, giving readers and students excellent phonetic correctness.
The continent of Africa
There is no such thing as having too many official languages in South Africa, which has 11 now since the end of apartheid. In fact, the country’s early inhabitants spoke Afrikaans, a derivation of Dutch, and English, respectively, throughout much of its history (from the second wave of colonists, who arrived in 1822).
To put it in perspective, South Africa’s colonial history is notably perplexing. However, in South Africa, dialects and vernaculars were not systematically eliminated during the colonial era, as in other colonial countries.
However, conquerors actively sought to keep the indigenous population from gaining access to white-controlled institutions by promoting their use of these languages. Many vulnerable indigenous tribes got linguistically caged off, limiting democracy to millions of people for centuries.
In addition to Afrikaans and English, other languages such as Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu were recognized as official once formal apartheid ended. Most South Africans are fluent in two or more languages since the country is so linguistically varied.
There are more than 20 Russian republics split over two continents and eleven time zones, making Russia a melting pot of languages. Adygean, Bashkir, Ingush, Kabardian, Balkar, Tatar, Kalmyk, Abaza, Cherkess, Karachay, Nogai, Mari, Mordvin, Komi, Ossetian, Udmurt, Chechen, and Chuvash are among the legally recognized languages in their respective republics. If you can speak Russian, you’ll be able to go across the country’s two borders and be understood without difficulty.
Indonesia’s geographical location is most likely to blame for the country’s wide range of languages. There are roughly 17,500 islands, 922 of which are inhabited. Even though Bahasa Indonesia, a descendent of a Malay trading dialect, was recognized as the official language in the 1930s and is now taught in schools throughout the nation, many residents of the same islands do not even speak the same language.
There are around 20 million native speakers and an additional 140 million who are fluent in the language as a second language. Many of Indonesia’s 725 languages are at risk of extinction in an increasingly globalized world because of the country’s 240 million people and numerous ethnic groups.
Counting the number of languages spoken in India is tricky because there are so many different languages recognized by the constitution, including Bengali, Punjabi, and Hindi, as well as Tamil. The Hindi script, written in Devanagari character stroke order instead of Latin, is recognized by the government of India as an official language alongside English.
There are almost 90 million people who can speak well in English, which is the language of the country’s former colonizers. Moreover, a third of Indians speak Hindi, mostly in the north and central regions. There is, however, no official language of the country.
More than 1,652 “mother tongues” were listed in the 1961 Indian census however it is not clear if that includes languages or dialects. Additionally, many claimed to speak languages that were not their own, while others mistook the name of their caste with a language.
According to the 2001 census, there are about 122 main languages spoken in the nation and 1,599 additional languages (which may include dialects), however more recent, supposedly accurate research has found 780 languages and suspected the presence of up to 100 more. Regardless of the accurate estimates, non-governmental research indicates that 220 Indian languages have been extinct in the previous 50 years, with an additional 150 at risk of extinction in the next 50, as speakers die and the following generation fails to acquire their parents’ languages.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea has the distinction of being the world’s most multilingual country, which is both an honor and a burden to some. There are approximately 850 languages spoken among a population of 8.9 million people in a country with over 850 different tribes. English and Tok Pisin, an English-based creole, have already suffocated several of these languages, which means they are in danger of becoming extinct altogether. Hiri Motu and Papua New Guinean Sign Language are the other two official languages of Papua New Guinea.
Aman Jha is a digital marketing author, passionate writer, and consultant. He is a sucker for fine words and blogs about digital marketing and startups at maxzob.com.