The two main dialects of Albanian are Gheg and Tosk. Gheg is primarily spoken in the north, while Tosk is spoken in the south. Standard Albanian is based on the Tosk dialect. The number of Albanian speakers in the Balkans is estimated to be approximately 5 million.
Centuries-old communities speaking Albanian dialects can be found scattered in Croatia (the Arbanasi), Greece (the Arvanites and some communities in Epirus, Western Macedonia and Western Thrace), Italy (the Arbëreshë in Southern Italy, Sicily and Calabria) as well as in Romania and Ukraine. There is also a large Albanian diaspora.
The language is spoken by approximately 7 million people primarily in Albania, Kosovo, Greece, Italy, Macedonia and Montenegro. However, due to the large Albanian diaspora, the total number of speakers is much higher than the native speakers in Southern Europe.
The Albanian language is the official language of Albania and Kosovo. It is spoken by the entire Albanian population in both. Albanian is a recognised minority language in Croatia, Italy, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and in Serbia. Albanian is also spoken in the Thesprotia and Preveza regional units and in a few villages in Ioannina and Florina regional units in Greece.
Albanian is the third most spoken language in Italy. This is due to the strong historical ties between the countries. Italy has a historical Albanian minority of about 500,000 which are scattered across southern Italy known as Arbëreshë. Approximately 1 million Albanians from Kosovo are dispersed throughout Germany, Switzerland and Austria. These are mainly refugees from Kosovo that migrated during the Kosovo War. In Switzerland, the Albanian language is the sixth most spoken language with 176,293 native speakers.