Want your ideas to spread around the world? The language you choose to speak or write in is a good indicator of the global influence your work will have.
Led by César A. Hidalgo and Shahar Ronen SM ’13, researchers have developed a new method for understanding how information travels around the world. Ronen’s master’s thesis, completed at MIT, formed the basis of the work. The team mapped out three global language networks based on bilingual tweeters, book translations, and multilingual Wikipedia edits.
The study’s results were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Among the findings? English is the hub of all three global language networks—in other words, there are more books, tweets, and Wikipedia entries translated into and out of English than other languages. A group of intermediate hubs, including French, German, and Russian, were also identified.
The size of the population fluent in a language does not necessarily indicate how far communications will spread. For example, although there are approximately 530 million Arabic speakers in the world, Arabic works have a relatively limited reach due to the low volume of works that are translated into or out of the language.
The study offers clues to both individuals and governments who want to improve their influence. “If I want my national language to be more prominent, then I should invest in translating more documents, encouraging more people to tweet in their national language,” explained Ronen in a recent interview with Science Magazine. For native English speakers, choosing to learn Spanish as a second language could be a better bet than Portuguese.
Read more at Science Magazine.