Measuring the influence of languages / Midiendo la influencia de las lenguas

Amazing visualizations of the use and influence of languages around the world are available from The Global Language Network, a project by the MIT Media Lab Macro Connections group in collaboration with Aix-Marseille Université, Northeastern MoBS, and Harvard University. In an effort to find a quantitative way to define the global influence of languages, the researchers compared the networks expressed in book translations into and out of languages, the language editions of Wikipedia, and languages used on Twitter. They also validated the findings against measures of the number of famous persons born in the countries associated with a particular language. I myself am a little uncertain whether the fame of persons is a dependent or independent variable here, but there is definitely a positive correlation. See researcher Cesar Hidalgo explain it below.

Project results show that the most influential languages, based on their connectivity to other languages, are English, Spanish, German, French, and to a lesser degree, Russian, Portuguese, and Chinese. What was fascinating was that some languages, such as Hindi and Arabic, which are spoken by hundreds of millions of people, are not as influential due to their rather introverted usage. In other words, although the languages are robust in particular countries and even regions, they are less prominent online and perhaps more telling–there are far fewer books translated into those languages and far fewer books originally written in those languages that are translated into other languages, than the highly connected languages or even the languages of some small countries like the Netherlands.

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Update on translations available on this site

I am happy to announce that the first two parts of “The Return on Investment” are available in Spanish as well as English on the Free Stories page. I’ve found a lovely person in Colombia to provide these translations, Daniela Toulemonde, who is also a writer. You can learn more about Daniela on the Collaborators page.

Also, I wanted to let you know that I have been trying to figure out how best to share translations on this site and, even though I have found no truly graceful way to make that happen, I’ve decided to simply focus on getting all my stories into my four focus languages–English, Hindi, Spanish and Mandarin–for now.  I will also try to translate posts into these four languages, but I won’t be able to do that regularly for a while. There’s more about why I’m including translations on this site here.

If you are a speaker/writer/reader of one of these non-English focus languages, please comment or send me a message. It is important that we writers encourage each other to reach out to readers in other languages, and, as a reader, I try to read translations regularly, too. Translation, however, especially literary translation, takes time and skill, so I’d like to know if others find the effort worthwhile.


EspanolMe complace anunciar que las dos primeras partes de “Rendimiento de la Inversión” están disponibles tanto en español como en inglés en la página de Historias Gratis. He encontrado a una persona grandiosa en Colombia para hacer estas traducciones, Daniela Toulemonde, quien también es escritora. Puedes conocer más sobre Daniela en la página de Colaboradores.

Además, quiero que sepan que he estado intentando encontrar la mejor forma de compartir las traducciones en esta página y, aunque no he encontrado una manera elegante de hacerlo, he decidido simplemente enfocarme en tener todos mis cuentos en mis cuatro lenguas prioritarias ­–inglés, hindi, español y mandarín– por ahora. También intentaré traducir entradas a estas cuatro lenguas, pero no aún podré hacerlo regularmente por un tiempo. Puedes leer más sobre las razones por cuales que estoy incluyendo traducciones en este sitio aquí.

Si eres un hablante/escritor/lector de alguna de estas lenguas prioritarias, aparte del inglés, por favor comenta o envíame un mensaje. Es importante que como escritores nos incitemos unos a otros a comunicarnos con lectores en otras lenguas. Como lectora, también intento leer traducciones regularmente. Sin embargo, la traducción requiere de tiempo y habilidad, así que me gustaría saber si otros ven el valor en ella.


Why translations?

Let’s be up front with one another, Dear Reader. One of the major factors compelling me to translate parts of this blog is my desire to build a worldwide readership. We are entering an age where Asian countries are once again going to be major social, economic, political, and cultural world forces. Ergo, I want my work to be accessible to readers there. Also, because I am a child of the western hemisphere, I cannot ignore the fact that Spanish is the dominant language of neighboring countries and is of growing significance in my own country.

Granted, I have no idea who my readership is or will be, but narrowing my market down to “educated adult Anglo Saxon women who read speculative fiction in English” seems foolishly limiting. I’d like to cast my net a bit wider and avoid missing readers whenever possible. Overcoming language barriers between me and the majority of people on this planet seems like one place to start. As the criminal Slick Willie Sutton reportedly said when asked why he robbed banks, “…because that’s where the money is.” Continue reading