Which Country Has the Most Languages?

Papua New Guinea has 820 different languages in use, the most languages of any country. Although the country is about 178,703 square miles (462,840 square km), about the size of California, it has more than 10% of the world's total number of languages, which is estimated to be about 6,900. This is thought to be because Papua New Guinea is heavily segmented into small tribes isolated by mountains, swamps and forests, which might have led each tribe to develop its own languages and dialects. Papua New Guinea does, however, have only three official languages: Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu and English.

More about languages:

  • The most widely spoken language in the world is Mandarin, with about 12% of the people in the world using it.

  • An estimated 2,400 languages are considered to be at risk of dying off, and it is estimated that languages become extinct at a rate of one every two weeks.

  • The Bible is the book that is available in the most languages — more than 2,400 — followed by the children’s book Pinocchio, which has been translated into more than 260 languages.
More Info: unesco.org

Discussion Comments


Well as a matter of fact, the languages are dying out and nothing is done to preserve the languages. So as time goes by, the languages may drop to two or three. Sad but true.


@Krunchyman - Well, that's a very good point. Also, to answer your question, you are right in the sense that of lot of books aren't direct translations of their original source material. A lot of it is localized for the intended audience. As an example, let's say that a joke made complete sense in English. When translated to another language (Japanese for example) it wouldn't suit the audience well, so they may base the joke off a pun instead. Most translators do this often, which makes perfect sense.


In relation to the last bullet point about the Bible and Pinocchio, does anyone else wonder how certain books are translated into a different language? After all, not everything can be a direct translation, right?


Regardless of how many languages a country has, it really makes me wonder how often some of them are used. Not only do you rarely hear about them, but on another note, I have heard that some languages have died out, due to the fact only a small amount of people use them. However, it's still interesting how so many dialects can derive from the formation of small unknown groups.

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