• Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse country in the world, with approximately 840 languages used.
  • Around 40% of the world's languages are at risk of dying out, as some languages become less widespread with each new generation.
  • Organizations such as the United Nations are takings steps to continue these languages.
a diagram showing the most linguistically diverse countries
These are the countries with the most linguistic diversity.
Image: Visual Capitalist

Ranked: the most diverse countries by language

Thousands of languages are spoken worldwide, but only a fraction are used widely. In fact, the speakers of 23 languages account for more than half of the total global population.

Despite this, there are still pockets around the globe that are rich in linguistic diversity. Here’s a look at the top 10 countries where the most languages are spoken.

These numbers include established and immigrant dialects.

Top 10 countries with the most languages

Despite a population of just 8.8 million, Papua New Guinea comes in first with a total of 840 languages spoken across the country. To put things into perspective, that’s almost 12% of the world’s languages spoken in an area that’s roughly the size of California.

a table showing the top 10 countries with the most languages
Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse country, despite its relatively small population.
Image: Visual Capitalist, Ethnologue

A likely reason for the country’s linguistic diversity is its isolation from modern life. Over 80% of Papua New Guinea’s population lives in rural areas and has minimal contact with external influences or other tribes.

Second on the list is Indonesia, with 711 different languages used throughout the country. Like Papua New Guinea, a major factor that could explain its language diversity is its geography—Indonesia is made up of around 17,500 islands (although more than 7,000 of them are uninhabited).

What's the World Economic Forum doing about diversity, equity and inclusion?

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent social and political unrest have created a profound sense of urgency for companies to actively work to tackle inequity.

The Forum's work on Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and Social Justice is driven by the New Economy and Society Platform, which is focused on building prosperous, inclusive and just economies and societies. In addition to its work on economic growth, revival and transformation, work, wages and job creation, and education, skills and learning, the Platform takes an integrated and holistic approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice, and aims to tackle exclusion, bias and discrimination related to race, gender, ability, sexual orientation and all other forms of human diversity.

The future of language diversity

While it’s clear that a multitude of languages still exist, around 40% of the world’s languages are at risk of dying out. Even in parts of the world where immense linguistic diversity remains, languages are disappearing with each subsequent generation.

In efforts to combat this, organizations like the United Nations are actively trying to promote and protect these endangered languages.