A Proportional Visualization of the World’s Most Popular Languages


Click to view in a big, high-res for­mat
Last week we high­light­ed for you a beau­ti­ful Tree of Lan­guages info­graph­ic, cre­at­ed by Min­na Sund­berg using data from ethnologue.com. This week, we present anoth­er visu­al­iza­tion of world lan­guages, this one pro­duced by Alber­to Lucas Lopéz, on behalf of the South Chi­na Morn­ing Post. And, once again, the under­ly­ing data comes from ethnologue.com, a research project that cat­a­logues all of the world’s known liv­ing lan­guages.

Today’s graph­ic — click here to view it in a large for­mat — takes the world’s 23 most pop­u­lar lan­guages, and then gives you a visu­al sense of how many peo­ple actu­al­ly speak those lan­guages over­all, and where geo­graph­i­cal­ly those lan­guages are spo­ken. The more a lan­guage is spo­ken, the more space it gets in the visu­al.

When you view the orig­i­nal graph­ic, you’ll note that Chi­nese speak­ers out­num­ber Eng­lish speak­ers by a fac­tor of four. And yet Eng­lish is spo­ken in 110 coun­tries, as com­pared to 33 for Chi­nese. And the num­ber of peo­ple learn­ing Eng­lish world­wide dwarfs the num­ber learn­ing Man­darin.

As you look through Lopéz’s visu­al, you’ll want to keep one thing in mind: Although the 23 lan­guages visu­al­ized above are col­lec­tive­ly spo­ken by 4.1 bil­lion peo­ple, there are at least anoth­er 6700 known lan­guages alive in the world today. Some­one has to cook up a pro­por­tion­al visu­al­iza­tion of those. Any tak­ers?

Speak­ing of learn­ing pop­u­lar lan­guages, don’t miss our col­lec­tion: Learn 48 Lan­guages Online for Free: Span­ish, Chi­nese, Eng­lish & More.

via Men­tal Floss

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Tree of Lan­guages Illus­trat­ed in a Big, Beau­ti­ful Info­graph­ic

The His­to­ry of the Eng­lish Lan­guage in Ten Ani­mat­ed Min­utes

Noam Chom­sky Talks About How Kids Acquire Lan­guage & Ideas in an Ani­mat­ed Video by Michel Gondry

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Comments (19)
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  • Patrick says:

    It seems that the dia­gram zaps french speak­ing Africa com­plete­ly. When french speak­ing africans are account­ed for, the num­ber of french speak­ing peo­ple is cur­rent­ly 270 mil­lion peo­ple. Pro­jec­tions lead to 700 mil­lion in 2050 (because of high growth rate in Africa), far more than eng­lish speak­ing peo­ple…

    Also, the dia­gram agglom­er­ates all flavours of chi­nese. OK, but then all flavours of latin lan­guages should also be aglom­er­at­ed (such as Ital­ian, Span­ish, French, Por­tugese, Roman­ian…). Then the dia­gram changes com­plete­ly…

  • Nuno Vieira says:

    Just a note, Ango­la (20 mil­li­ions) and East Tim­or, Cape Vert, São Tomé e Príncipe, Guiné, are all coun­tries where Por­tuguese is the ofi­fi­cial lan­guage.

  • v says:

    Tel’u’gu is mis­spelt Tel’e’gu

  • funda says:

    whole cen­tral asia speaks turk­ish yet it’s less fre­quent than ital­ian?

  • susi says:

    yes — where is french speak­ing Africa???

  • Antalya says:

    Total­ly inac­cu­rate visu­al. There are over 80 mil­lion Ger­man speak­ers of Ger­man in Ger­many alone with­out count­ing Aus­tria and Switzer­land Ger­man speak­ing can­tons.

  • Rick says:

    this obvi­ous­ly does­n’t cov­er all lan­guages spo­ken in any par­tic­u­lar coun­try. If you trav­el to most coun­tries around the world Eng­lish is spo­ken to one degree or anoth­er. How­ev­er, if you try apply the same throught with all oth­er lan­guages, this isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly the case.

  • Pandora says:

    so did sev­er­al mil­lion inhab­i­tants of Aus­tria sud­den­ly lose the abil­i­ty to speak Ger­man?

    Looks like, as oth­ers have point­ed out WRT Africa that a lot of data are miss­ing or unre­port­ed. While enter­tain­ing, the dia­gram is not at all accu­rate.

  • Oleg says:

    French is spo­ken by up to 300 mil­lion peo­ple. Ger­man is spo­ken by almost 100 mil­lion. This info­graph­ic is very mis­lead­ing.

  • Shmedley says:

    Mex­i­co is the wrong col­or.

    Malaysia should not be gray with a plus sign; that should be the small­er bub­ble with no coun­try named.

    Slop­py, as also evi­denced by many of the oth­er com­ments. This was in the South Chi­na Morn­ing Post?!

  • Just asking says:

    1) Where are the French-speak­ing African coun­tries ?

    2) Why isn’t UK (or at least Eng­land) into the eng­lish-speak­ing coun­tries ?

  • Haluk Demir says:

    When you walk from Turkey to Chi­na, through Azer­ba­j­can, Kırghzis­tan, Kaza­khis­tan, Turk­menistan etc. even in the north of Chi­na what you speak is Turk­ish and its dialects.

  • Andy Baker says:

    Why are Hin­di and Urdu list­ed sep­a­rate­ly but many Chi­nese lan­guages com­bined? I have a hunch that there are greater dif­fer­ences with­in the Chi­nese group than between (spo­ken) Hin­di and Urdu.

  • Balaji Bal says:

    Malay­alam is miss­ing here — spo­ken by around 40 mil­lion peo­ple.

  • Bob says:

    It looks like most of the com­plaints by com­ments are relat­ed to a con­fu­sion in what this map rep­re­sents. This map is NOT which lan­guages are spo­ken by peo­ple, but what lan­guage is the PRIMARY lan­guage spo­ken by some­one.

    It is a re-occur­ring issue lin­guists have when show­ing lan­guage pop­u­la­tions because many peo­ple speak sev­er­al lan­guages even on a dai­ly basis. There are even more peo­ple who are flu­ent in sev­er­al lan­guages even if they don’t speak them reg­u­lar­ly.

    When total num­ber of speak­ers is mea­sured Eng­lish and French num­bers increase dra­mat­i­cal­ly (some sources even claim­ing Eng­lish to have more speak­ers than Man­darin.)

  • Sarat says:

    It’s ‘Tel­ugu’ not ‘Telegu’. Please con­sid­er acknowl­edg­ing it, even if you can’t change it.
    Slop­py as oth­er com­men­ta­tors already told.

  • Sue says:

    It is rub­bish that more peo­ple speak Javanese than Bahasa and Malay com­bined. Slop­py research, do we won­der why you can get a mas­ters degree in one year part-time in some coun­tries? This type of schol­ar­ship is not well regard­ed in oth­er coun­tries

  • Pierre Audet says:

    Check your sources (or do your home­work) : 274 mil­lion fran­coph­o­nes in the world.

  • Steven Tait says:

    Chi­nese is not a sin­gle lan­guage. The lan­guages share a writ­ing sys­tem but are more dif­fer­ent than many oth­er lan­guages.

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