The World's Most Influential Languages I Oxford Open Learning


    The World’s Most Influential Languages

    What Are The Most Influential Languages In The World?

    Before discussing the most influential languages, we must outline what makes a language influential. The influence of languages can be determined through various factors such as the number of speakers, economic power associated with speakers, cultural impact, political significance, and global usage. This is perhaps the classic and most logical way to assess a language’s global influence.
    Modern technology has allowed an even more sophisticated answer to the question of a language’s influence. In what was a truly big data analysis, a group of scholars at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) looked at over 2.2 million book translations between 1979 and 2011 from over 150 countries and over a thousand languages, 382 million Wikipedia edits in 238 languages by 2.5 million editors, and finally reviewed 550 million tweets in 73 languages from over 17 million users! This analysis led them to postulate that the influence level of a language is less about the language itself but about how it connects to others.

    It’s Not All English!

    Their visio-spatial charts presented on the world economic forum website show clearly that English, with over 1.5 billion speakers and being the most heavily translated in the world, was the most actively connected and influential language. However, their research didn’t point to a dominant language after English but showed German, French, Spanish, and Japanese were the most heavily translated into and from English, and this seemed to be the next most influential cohort.

    What About Chinese?

    Being the second most spoken language with 1 billion speakers, it begs the question as to why Chinese isn’t the second most influential language. In fact it is due to what is termed ‘linguistic isolation’ because its usage is limited to networks such as Sina Weibo (Chinese Twitter) and Baidu Baike (Chinese Wikipedia). Russia has a similar form of linguistic isolation via VK (Russian Facebook).


    This research also showed that informal communication channels like Twitter have been allowing less widely spoken languages to rise in influence. Swahili, Malay, and Filipino were over-represented on Twitter given the numbers of actual speakers.


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