Beautiful chart displays native speakers of world's languages


Originally published at:


Chinese isn’t a language. It’s a family of languages, many mutually unintelligible. If the designer has put Romance languages like Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian in different boxes, he should put the different languages spoken in China in different boxes too. Many of them are more different from one another than are Romance languages.


Oh good I was hoping somebody would find a nit to pick! I myself am appalled all the nuances of language aren’t presented in one graphic. For example, where are the bilingual people?


Calling ‘Chinese’ a single language is more than a nit…

ETA: I finally got through to the full size image*, which does claim to address this. It calls ‘Chinese’ a ‘macrolanguage’ containing several individual languages and dialects. Okay; acknowledged, but it’s still a bit odd to combine them that way.

*: Privacy Badger really doesn’t like that site, reporting 43 potential trackers, including the one serving the image.


But… that can’t be right! Where’s 'murican, and how come it’s not more bigly than all the others?


It’s hard to see without clicking through to the full-resolution version, but they do describe Chinese as a “macrolanguage”, and give figures (aggregate, not split by country) for the major Chinese languages.

However, this contrasts with their treatment of Urdu and Hindi as different languages, rather than as two standardised registers of Hindustani. I guess politics is the key criterion for distinguishing languages from dialects.

I hadn’t realised there were five times as many Urdu speakers in India as there are in Pakistan.


Also, why is Bangladesh coloured Blue, signifying Middle East when it is east of grey (Asia Minor) India?


Also, why is Austria not called out under German?


I’m guessing that someone remembered that Bangladesh used to be East Pakistan, and on the back of that incorrectly gave it the same colour as (West) Pakistan. This, of course, raises the question of why Pakistan is classed as part of the Middle East, which I don’t think is usual.

The graphic’’ usage of “Asia Minor” is also idiosyncratic; traditionally, this refers to Anatolia (Asian Turkey). And I don’t remember ever seeing the term “Asia Major” at all.


That they forgot Austria (and South Tyrol, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg etc.) is probably the reason why the number of native speakers is wrong too. German is spoken by approximately 90-95 Million people according to wikipedia.


Also, why only 0.7 million in Switzerland. Granted, Swiss German dialects are probably the hardest dialects for mainstream German speakers, but they are undeniably German and they use standard German - with the usual specialized vocabulary, of course - as written language. Also, most of the non-ethnic-Germans Germans and resident aliens seem to be bilingual, so they ought to be counted twice. I see that all of the time: Parents with Middle Eastern/Arabian features speaking Arabic or Persian or whatever and their kids zooming by, telling them something in flawless German and and getting replied to in German.


from wikipedia

Latin Asia and Greek Ἀσία appear to be the same word. Roman authors translated Ἀσία as Asia. The Romans named a province Asia, which roughly corresponds with modern-day central-western Turkey. There was an Asia Minor and an Asia Major located in modern-day Iraq. As the earliest evidence of the name is Greek, it is likely circumstantially that Asia came from Ἀσία, but ancient transitions, due to the lack of literary contexts, are difficult to catch in the act. The most likely vehicles were the ancient geographers and historians, such as Herodotus, who were all Greek. Ancient Greek certainly evidences early and rich uses of the name.[23]

The first continental use of Asia is attributed to Herodotus (about 440 BCE), not because he innovated it, but because his Histories are the earliest surviving prose to describe it in any detail. He defines it carefully,[24] mentioning the previous geographers whom he had read, but whose works are now missing. By it he means Anatolia and the Persian Empire, in contrast to Greece and Egypt. Herodotus comments that he is puzzled as to why three women’s names were “given to a tract which is in reality one” (Europa, Asia, and Libya, referring to Africa), stating that most Greeks assumed that Asia was named after the wife of Prometheus (i.e. Hesione), but that the Lydians say it was named after Asies, son of Cotys, who passed the name on to a tribe at Sardis.[25] In Greek mythology, “Asia” (Ἀσία) or “Asie” (Ἀσίη) was the name of a “Nymph or Titan goddess of Lydia.”[26]


Albanian is noticeably absent from this infographic. Though it is a minor language, it is used by well over 6 million people throughout the world today. More than many that are listed in this graphic. Furthermore, it is one of the only few languages that is not derived from any other language. It is truly a one-of-a-kind language.


I was going to to remark on this: it’s interesting to me that of the ~6 billion from the survey, they’ve left out 1/3 of the folks. Obviously, there’s a limit to the number of languages they could include in a single graphic, but I think it also emphasizes the sheer diversity of languages out there.

Also, I’m not entirely sure how they dealt with people who have multiple native languages.


Let’s not forget Romanian; also a Romance language. (Sounds a touch Italian to my ears.)


I want to take this graphic to all of the schools in the area who only teach German, Spanish, and French as foreign languages. It is a wonderful way to show that we should really be teaching students Arabic, Spanish, and Mandarin or Cantonese.


True, but hey, at least they have a mutually intelligible written language.


I hate all of these charts/diagrams. For this very reason. They lump “Chinese” together (and “Arabic” for that matter), but represent Hindi and Urdu as separate languages - which, unlike dialects of “Chinese” are in fact mutually intelligible, and largely, one might argue, one language written in two different scripts.


As someone with two degrees in linguistics, all I can say these charts and divisions are always fucked up, no matter what you do.

Language divisions are always, at best, fairly subjective. Usually the dividing line is mutual intelligibility. But imagine dialect A in Valley A, and the speakers have mutal intelligibility with the folks over in Valley B, who speak dialect B. Those dialect B speakers get along with the folks over in Valley C, who speak dialect C, which is also mutually intelligible with dialect B. But get this - dialect A ain’t mutually intelligible with dialect C. What language do they speak? One language? Two? Now, for extra credit, throw some politics in there, and you can better understand the Chinese umbrella and the Hindi/Urdu division. Nope, that diagram don’t make no sense, but it’s far more complicated than that diagram can explain, too.


There are 8 Million people living in Austria and most of them speak german. How is Austria not show if there is Poland and Switzerland shown. I am disappointed :frowning: