A Map of Twitter in non English languages

There’s a fantastic map available that shows which languages twitter is being used in and where. I found this map via this Big Think post here which has a great breakdown:

What does this map tell us? First of all, like those world-at-night maps, it shows us where all the people are – at least those tweeting. Western Europe is lit up like a christmas tree – with the Netherlands glowing especially bright. Eastern Europe: not so much. Russia is a spider’s web of large cities connected through the darkness of the vast, empty countryside. In East Asia, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia stand out. India is much darker – but maybe that’s because English, no longer majoritary but still dominant, is rendered in subdued grey.

The Middle East is half-lit, but across the arid dunes of Saudi Arabia rather than along the Fertile Crescent. Africa remains Twitter’s darkest continent. The Americas are illuminated in all the usual places: the eastern half and the western coast of the US, with high densities throughout Central America, the Caribbean and the shores of South America, and low densities in its centre.

But the map most of all tells us which language people are twittering in. This is a fascinating way to compare official and actual language use. Quebec, for example, is an enormous French-speaking territory, almost triple the size of France itself (2). But those Canadians actually practising le tweetin French (3) form a much smaller cluster, huddling around the St Lawrence in a couple of large hubs, with only a few francophone flecks further afield.

The rest of North America is solidly, and massively, anglophone, with only a surprisingly small smattering of Spanish in those areas with large hispanic populations. The US-Mexican border, for all its supposed permeability, is still clearly visible on this map, which shows Spanish dominating most of the rest of the Americas – although Cuba remains as dark as the night.

The fun really begins in Europe, where some of countries just vanish off the map: Belgium tweets in Dutch and French, Switzerland in mainly in German, with a French bit west of the Röstigraben (3). And other countries emerge out of nowhere: Catalans twitter in their own language, not Spanish. German dominates Central Europe, but a surprisingly large chunk of Austria appears to be tweeting in Italian – as do a lot of dots inside France.

Those are the really fascinating bits of this map of Twitter’s languages: the ones that show a divergent reality to the one we find on most other maps – even ‘proper’ linguistic ones: is that blue dot south of Amman really a Danish oasis in the Jordanian desert? Does nobody tweet in Lithuanian? And is that Spanish being tweeted in Bermuda?

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