most influential languages 2015

Want to influence the world? This map reveals the best languages to speak, tweet, or write books in.

Speak or write in English, and the world will hear you. Speak or write in Tamil or Portuguese, and you may have a harder time getting your message out.

Now, a new method for mapping how information flows around the globe identifies the best languages to spread your ideas far and wide.

Researchers from MIT, Harvard University, Northeastern University and Aix-Marseille University tackled the problem by describing three global language networks based on bilingual tweeters, book translations and multilingual Wikipedia edits.

The book translation network maps how many books are translated into other languages. The network is based on 2.2 million translations of printed books published in more than 1,000 languages.

As in all of the networks, the thickness of the lines represents the number of connections between nodes.

For tweets, the researchers used 550 million tweets by 17 million users in 73 languages. In that network, if a user tweets in, say, Hindi as well as in English, the two languages are connected.

To build the Wikipedia network, the researchers tracked edits in up to five languages done by editors, carefully excluding bots.

Top Wikipedia languages

Top Wikipedia languages (most page views) | 2015

1 English
2 Japanese
3 Spanish
4 German
5 Russian

8 Chinese
13 Arabic

Earlier posts: Native and first languages in Pakistan | The world’s most spoken languages

In all three networks, English has the most transmissions to and from other languages and is the most central hub. But the maps also reveal “a halo of intermediate hubs” such as French, German and Russian, which serve the same function at a different scale.

In contrast, some languages with large populations of speakers, such as Mandarin, Hindi, and Arabic, are relatively isolated in these networks. This means that fewer communications in those languages reach speakers of other languages.

Meanwhile, a language like Dutch — spoken by 27 million people — can be a disproportionately large conduit, compared with a language like Arabic, which has a whopping 530 million native and second-language speakers.

This is because the Dutch are very multilingual and very online.

Source of selected, edited text: Social Sciences

most influential languages 2015a

More on the MIT Media Lab’s Global Language Network (GLN) website. There’s an interactive map with which you can play for hours (image, above).

World’s most powerful languages, 2018. Source: INSEAD

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