Dividing up Languages
Linguists divide up the world’s languages into families. Above is a map showing the world’s top ten language families and below is a table showing their subgroups. I ranked the top 10 languages by the number of present speakers as of November 2013. My data was taken from Ethnologue and map from wiki. Looking at Ethnologue: here are the language families (there are dozens) and here are the number of speakers. The map and table shows the name of the family, the percent of world speakers for whom it is their native tongue and then the number of individual languages in that group.
Jumping Language Families
Trust me, for any of you who can speak fluently more than one language fluently, you have never studied a “foreign” language, until as an adult, you have learned a language outside of your mother language’s family group. For instance, my mother language is English. I first studied German, then dabbled with Greek, then learned to speak/read/write Hindi & Urdu. At that time, I thought my language skills were pretty broad. But all those languages are Indo-European. And when I landed in Japan, I quickly found out what “Language Family” meant. In Japanese I had to twist my linguist brain into completely new knots.
Choosing the Top Ten
I arbitrarily chose the top 10 languages and arbitrarily chose what qualified as “top” by the number of speakers (not land covered). If my arbitrary choices excluded your favorite language or seems to minimize it, then
tough luck I’m sorry. Also, for sake of size, I left the Americas off the map because the only top 10 language family there is Indo-European. Remember, as of today there are 7,105 living languages — hard to include them all.