Global Language

The Loh Down On Science

Hey English speakers, want to learn a second language? Maybe not Chinese.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet bilingual Hebrew-English speaker Shahar Ronen. When he was a graduate student at MIT, he got curious about how well different modern languages transmit ideas and information to other cultures.

So he and his advisor designed a study based on three important global forums: book publishing, Wikipedia, and Twitter. For books, they analyzed a UN database of books translated into other languages. For Wikipedia and Twitter, they analyzed users who posted in more than one language.

They ended up mapping a network of connected languages for each of the three forums. Results? All three had English as the main hub to which other languages were connected. Languages like Spanish, German, and French formed intermediate-sized hubs.

Their paper argues that Chinese and Hindi, despite large numbers of speakers, aren’t well-connected to other globally important language hubs.

But at least all of our various ethnic restaurants are connected through Yelp! Five stars to that!

This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at