A new study has mapped the global influence of different languages and as a surprise to absolutely no one, English comes out as the most important and influential language.
Russia, somewhat more surprisingly, comes in second with other languages following up well behind.
The data was collected by researchers at MIT and essentially looked at texts which had been translated from one language to another. They mapped the original language and the language into which they were translated and graphed the results into the image shown here.
It shows the central hub as English (with approximately 1.5k million speakers). The second strongest hub is Russian but whilst English was the target language for almost all languages, Russian was the target language primarily for geographically related languages.
Chinese has roughly the same number of speakers as English but it lacks the interconnectivity that English has; most speakers of Chinese (Mandarin & Cantonese) are native speakers and only a few geographically related languages are translated in Chinese for greater exposure. Similarly Hindi has a significant number of speakers but is fairly insular, much like Arabic.
The result is that roughly 50% of material on the internet is in English.
As an interesting side note, the study also looked at influence and found that the language a person uses affects whether that person will be important or not. A person born into English has more advantage than someone born into a similarly populous language (e.g. Chinese) or one where the speakers are relatively wealthier.
English – the language we teach – about the most influential language in the world
Global Language Network – an interactive version of the map here
Free English Lessons & exercises – Free English lessons from Phil