Most Influential Languages from Previous Studies

For some time, studies have shown that the world’s most influential languages have included Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, French and English, with the latter being ranked first on the list. These languages are considered influential based on the regularity they are spoken in many regions around the world. Mandarin has the most number of first-language speakers, but is mainly spoken in China and within the global Chinese communities. Arabic has been shown to rank higher than Mandarin because it is spoken internationally as the language of Islam. Spanish is the main language spoken in twenty-one countries and is spoken in other countries both as a first and second language across the globe. French, which used to be the language of diplomacy in the past, has lost considerable ground over the years to English but is still used by several international organisations and groups and is the official language in twenty-five countries. In terms of international use, English is still at the top of the list, even though it is spoken as a first language by only about 500 million people. Would you be surprised to know that there are approximately two billion people who use English to communicate regularly around the world? And would you believe that a large number of them actually live in China?

New Research on Influential Languages Around the Globe

Based on a recent study undertaken by a multidisciplinary research team headed by César Hidalgo of MIT, it has been shown that there has been a change in the ranking of the most influential languages. The study mapped the languages used for international communication. They identified the sources of the media that had multiple translations, such as books, Twitter and Wikipedia.

English remains on top as a global language, followed by a smaller interconnected network of other languages that have colonial and historical influence, including Spanish, German, French, Russian, Chinese and Portuguese. Twitter on the other hand showed the growing influence of other languages, such as Swahili, Filipino and Malay. Russian and Chinese still showed signs of language isolation. The majority of Russians still use their own version of Facebook, while the Chinese use their own Baidu Baike and Sina Weibo.


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