Discover the world's least spoken languages

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Hands drawn with the map of the world. The continents on the map (America, Europe, Africa and Asia) contain minority or endangered languages.

Although there are currently more than 7,000 languages, just 23 are spoken by more than half of the world’s population. We’ve all heard of the languages with the most speakers in the world, but if the question was “What is the least spoken language in the world?”, few people would be sure of the answer.

The world’s least spoken languages

One of the concepts we need to clarify before talking about which languages have the smallest number of speakers in the world is to know when a language is considered endangered. A language is considered endangered or moribund when the language is no longer passed on between generations and is no longer spoken on a daily basis.
Although speakers strive to preserve it, unfortunately there are some languages that are in serious danger of extinction, such as:


Although this language is one of the Oceanic languages and was composed of three dialects in the 20th century, its number of speakers has decreased drastically: there are currently only two speakers worldwide in the Republic of Vanuatu.


The language known as “Tanema” is one of the oceanic languages spoken in the Solomon Islands. Currently, only one person in the world speaks this language. Although this language has a written tradition, another of the archipelago’s languages, Teanu, has replaced it.

Contrary to what one might think, linguistic extinction does not occur only on islands or in remote areas. Large and hyper-connected geographic areas such as Europe and the Americas also have languages in serious danger of disappearing.

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What are the least spoken languages in Europe?

Europe, despite the image it projects of linguistic conservation and cultural preservation, is also home to some minority languages. For example:

Ter Saami

This language is part of the Sami languages and was spoken in the northeastern part of the Kola peninsula in Russia. The suppression of the language and the gradual dispersion of the Soviet Union’s population were the main reasons for its decline and today only two native speakers remain.


Exclusive to two populations in the Kingiseppsky District, Russia, this language belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of languages. Unfortunately, it is not used on a daily basis and its four speakers are elderly.

Other minority languages in Europe are Minderico, in Minde, Portugal (with 150 speakers) or Karaim, from the Turkish family (with 80 native speakers).

What are the least spoken languages in the Americas?

In the Americas, there are a large number of languages spoken by indigenous communities, which are in serious danger of disappearing. Some examples are:


The language spoken mainly in the Huallaga river basin, in the Loreto region (Peru), is part of the Arawak linguistic family. It is estimated that only two to eight people speak it. The vast majority of speakers are elderly people, whose linguistic proficiency is limited to proverbs, songs and prayers.


Although the government has made many efforts to preserve it, the language spoken in the Tigre river basin, in the Loreto region of Peru, currently has only two speakers. Its decline is due to two main factors: an epidemic that ravaged the community in the 1960s; and the intermarriage of speakers with people outside the language community. These people, over time, stopped using their mother tongue to speak Spanish or Quechua.

Other endangered languages include Tanana (with about 25 speakers in Alaska), Achumawi (with less than ten speakers in California), Anambé of Cairarí (with six speakers in Brazil) and Boruca (with three speakers in Costa Rica).

Which languages are no longer spoken?

Throughout history, many languages have ceased to be spoken due to different factors, such as migration, colonization or social change. Some of them are:


The last native speaker of this language, which belongs to the Uralic language family, was Grizelda Kristina, who passed away in 2013. This language used to be spoken in the village of Livonia, on the Courland peninsula (Latvia).


The last speaker of this language, Cristina Calderón, passed away in 2022. This language was used by nomadic peoples in the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, covering regions of Chile and Argentina.


Formerly spoken in the Manyara region of Tanzania, this language became extinct between 1952 and 1956. However, some communities retain isolated expressions and words.


Belonging to the Tupi languages, this language used to be spoken in the state of Pará (Brazil), but there are no records of any speakers since about 2000.

The importance of protecting minority languages

The disappearance of a language not only implies the loss of a unique form of communication and cultural expression, but also of a way of seeing the world.

It should be noted that most languages do not simply disappear, but are replaced by others that have more economic, political or social power. To preserve them, it is necessary to fight against the prejudices associated with these languages and to encourage their learning. In order to revitalize these languages, the role of the educational centers is fundamental, as well as that of the political authorities governing the communities in which these languages are found.

The lesser spoken languages of the world are an important part of the linguistic and cultural diversity of our planet. Learning about them and promoting their preservation is essential to appreciate and respect the richness of different communities and traditions.

If you want to know more about the most spoken languages in the world, feel free to check out our article called The most spoken languages in the world in 2023. In addition, if you want to know the reality of a country as linguistically rich as Switzerland, you can view the article What language is spoken in Switzerland?

If you need help in your translations or advice for your internationalization process, do not hesitate to contact us. At iDISC, a translation agency, we will find the right solution for your company.

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