New study on importance of international languages in the world

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Scientists proposed a new method of assessing the global importance of international languages – those, which are being used by majority of people around the world.

A special map of contacts of the most commonly used languages in the world was created, and the results of research based on that map turned out to be quite unexpected.

The results of the research were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As a result of the studies, the scientists found out that Chinese and Arabic languages, despite having a rather big speaking base, are inferior in influence, compared not only to English, but to other European languages as well.

The connections between the world languages were established upon special methods.

Information on 2.2 million books (translated from 1979 to 2011) from the UNESCO Index Translationum, Wikipedia editorial data, on different languages (2.5 million editors working on 382 million articles), and also data from a billion of tweets (published from Dec. 11 to Feb. 2012).

As it turned out, the global map of language influence has a hierarchical structure: the central hub of connection is English language, surrounded by second hub – German, French, Spanish, Russian and Portuguese.

While Arabic, Chinese and Hindi languages are considered to be more important as more people speak those languages – they are considerably lower in terms of cultural importance.

One of the reasons for that is the isolation of these languages: very few articles and books are translated from Chinese and into Arabic, while English, Russian and Spanish remain the links between the lesser used world languages.

For example to make a Russian to understand the language of Quechua people, it first needs to be translated into English, and then into Russian.

The researchers note that the structure works both in conservative cultural sphere (translated books), an in the new media as well (Twitter, Wikipedia).

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