This is the Language Each Country Wants to Learn the Most
When it came to choosing a new hobby during COVID-19 lockdowns, learning a new language was a popular choice—in March 2020, the language app Duolingo saw a 300% boost in new users.
But which languages were the most popular to learn in each country? This graphic by Wordtips maps the most popular language learning choices around the globe.
To find out which countries wanted to learn which languages, Wordtips used Google’s Keyword Planner, and tallied the number of searches for ‘learn x language’ (translated into different languages) in every country from May 2020 to May 2021.
Most Desired Languages to Learn in North America
Interestingly, Japanese is the most popular language that Americans and Canadians want to learn.
While this may sound surprising, North Americans have consumed and adored Japanese pop culture since the early 1990s. And recently, Westerners’ interest in anime has grown even more prominent, with the demand for anime programs in the U.S., for Q1 of 2021, up 33% compared to a year prior.
Another country’s top pick that may come as a surprise is Belize, where the most popular language to learn is Chinese.
According to the 2000 Census, almost 1% of the country’s population identifies as Chinese. Chinese immigration to Belize began in the mid-1800s, when Chinese immigrants were brought into the country (then known as British Honduras) as laborers.
More recently, a wave of Taiwanese migrants have immigrated and set up businesses in Belize, as part of Taiwan’s international development efforts.
Meanwhile in South America, both Peru and Chile showed a strong desire to learn Korean. The popularity of K-Pop in South America demonstrates how media and art can help spread languages far beyond their original borders, and sometimes in unexpected places.
Most Desired Languages to Learn in Europe
English is the most popular language across Europe, as it’s the top searched language in 34 European countries.
But a few countries differ from the norm—for instance, German is the most popular language to learn in Denmark. In a small Southern region of Denmark, German is the official minority language. And according to World Atlas, up to 20,000 ethnic Germans live in the area, with about 8,000 speaking standard German as their native tongue.
In the UK, Spanish takes the top spot. But more interestingly, Spanish is also Spain’s most popular language to learn, which seems counterintuitive. However, it could be because of Spain’s high concentration of British expats. According to BBC News, there are more than 300,000 British expats currently living in Spain.
Top Languages Spoken Worldwide
While English is the most popular language to learn in various countries, it’s also the most spoken language worldwide, with approximately 1.1 billion total speakers—that’s roughly 15% of the global population.
|2||Mandarin Chinese||1,117 million|
|6||Standard Arabic||274 million|
And with more people interested in learning English, it looks like it could remain the world’s lingua franca (a common language among people who don’t speak the same native language) for years to come.
Visualizing Population Density Patterns in Six Countries
These maps show the population density of several countries, using 3D spikes to denote where more people live.
As of 2022, Earth has 8 billion humans. By 2050, the population is projected to grow to 10 billion.
In the last 100 years, the global population more than quadrupled. But none of this growth has been evenly spread out, including within countries.
This series of 3D maps from Terence Teo, an associate professor at Seton Hall University, renders the population density of six countries using open-source data from Kontur Population. He used popular programming language R and a path-tracing package, Rayshader, to create the maps.
France and Germany: Population Density Spikes and Troughs
Let’s take a look at how the population spreads out in different countries around the world. Click the images to explore higher-resolution versions.
France is the world’s 7th largest economy and second-most-populous country in the EU with 65 million people. But a staggering one-fifth of the French population lives in Paris and its surrounding metro—the most populous urban area in Europe.
Many residents in the Paris metropolitan area are employed in the service sector, which makes up one-third of France’s $2.78 trillion gross domestic product.
Unlike France, Germany has many dense cities and regions, with Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, and Cologne all having over a million residents. Berlin is the most populated at 3.5 million residents in the city proper, and 6 million in the wider urban area.
That said, the relatively recent reunification of West and East Germany in 1991 meant that post-WWII growth was mostly concentrated in West Germany (and West Berlin).
Italy and Chile: Coast to Coast
In Italy, another phenomenon affects population density and urban development—a sprawling coastline.
Despite having a large population of 59 million and large metropolitan areas throughout, Italy’s population spikes are closer to the water.
The port cities of Genoa, Napoli, and Palermo all have large spikes relative to the rest of the country, as does the capital, Rome. Despite its city center located 15 miles inland from the sea, it extends to the shore through the district of Ostia, where the ancient port of Rome existed.
Meanwhile in Chile, stuck between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, population spikes corroborate with its many port towns and cities.
However, the country is more concentrated than Italy, with 40% of its residents congregating around the capital of Santiago.
Turkey and Canada: Marred by Mountains and Climes
Though Chile has difficulties with terrain, it is relatively consistent. Other countries have to attempt to settle many different climes—regions defined by their climates.
Mountains to the south and east, a large, semi-arid plateau, and even a small desert leave few centers of urban growth in Türkiye.
Predictably, further west, as the elevation comes down to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, population spikes begin to heighten. The largest of course is the economic and cultural hub of Istanbul, though the capital Ankara is also prominent with more than 5 million residents.
In Canada, the Rocky Mountains to the west and freezing cold temperatures in the center and north account for the large country’s relative emptiness.
Though population spikes in Western Canada are growing rapidly, highly populous urban centers are noticeably concentrated along the St. Lawrence River, with the Greater Toronto Area accounting for more than one-sixth of the country’s 39 million people.
According to the World Bank, more than half of the world’s population currently lives in cities, and that trend is only growing.
By 2050, 7 out of 10 people are projected to live in cities. This congregation makes cities a beehive of productivity and innovation—with more than 80% of the world’s GDP being generated at these population centers.
It’s in this context that mapping and studying urban development becomes all the more important, particularly as policymakers try their hand at sustainable urban planning.
As Teo puts it:
“By showing where people are (and are not), they show us where political and economic power is concentrated, and perhaps where and who our governments represent.”
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