According to the results of the 2021 Population and Housing Census, a total of 243 different languages are spoken as a native language by Estonian residents, Statistics Estonia said Monday.
Estonian, meanwhile, is spoken as a native language by 67 percent and as a foreign language by another 17 percent of the population, indicating that a total of 84 percent of the country's population speaks Estonian, according to a press release published in honor of Native Language Day.
Henry Lass, an analyst at Statistics Estonia, noted that the proportion of native Estonian speakers has not increased, however the number of languages spoken natively by Estonian residents has risen significantly since 2000.
"A total of 109 different native languages were counted in the 2000 census; a decade later, there were 157 of them, and as many as 243 [were counted] in the 2021 census," Lass said.
New languages with the largest number of speakers included Iranian languages (62), Niger-Kordofanian languages (20), Sindhi (19) and Mandar (15), he added.
The most widely spoken languages in the world are English, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish and French. According to the 2021 census, 3,879 people living in Estonia speak English, 419 people Mandarin Chinese, 530 people Hindi, 1,378 people Spanish and 1,424 people French as their native language.
"The oldest languages spoken as native languages in Estonia are Egyptian, Hebrew and Tamil," Lass highlighted, with 21, 79 and 124 native speakers each, respectively.
In the latest nationwide census, Estonian residents were able to indicate up to two native languages. According to the results, there are a total of 30,710 people living in Estonia, or some 2 percent of the population, who speak two native languages.
"The largest number of people — 18,160 — declared Estonian and Russian their two native languages," the Statistics Estonia analyst said. "The second most common combination of two native languages, Estonian and English, was indicated by 1,220 people."
According to the 2021 census, there are 1,464 sign language speakers in Estonia, including 754 people who speak a sign language natively and another 710 who speak a sign language as a foreign language.
Estonian Sign Language (ESL), which gained legal recognition as an independent language under the Language Act in 2007, is spoken natively by 444 people and as a foreign language by another 480.
In the 2021 census survey, respondents were able to enter their native language manually. Around 230 people declared a dialect as their native language.
Information on Estonian residents' command of languages was collected via the 2021 Population and Housing Census survey conducted from the end of 2021 through the beginning of 2022.
Click here to read more about language skills in the Estonian population.
Editor: Aili Vahtla