Sunday, January 6, 2008

The most widespread languages in the world

Literally and littorally. Languages officially spoken in countries covering the largest percentage of earth’s surface area:

English 39,500,000 km2, 29% of world’s surface, 53 countries
French 20,600,000 km2, 15% of world’s surface, 29 countries
Russian 20,500,000 km2, 15% of world’s surface 4 countries
Spanish 12,200,000 km2, 9% of world’s surface, 21 countries
Portuguese 10,750,000 km2, 8% of world’s surface, 9 countries
Chinese 9,650,000 km2, 7% of world’s surface, 3 countries
The Arab world stretches across some 12-13 million square kilometers.

World’s emerged surface: 135,000,000 km2 (192 countries - Antarctica not included).

The languages of countries claiming Antarctica (some 14,000,000 km2) are English, Spanish, Norwegian and French. In addition there’s some overlap between French and English. After taking this into account French would cover about the same area as Spanish. The former Soviet Union covered over 22,400,000 km2.

Some significant languages are nowhere to be seen in this list. However, a natural path to world domination is the control of the seas and Italy has a longer coastline than Brazil while Japan has the sixth-longest coastline in the world -longer than those of the US, Australia or China. Since we’ll be conquering the beaches in sandals rather than army boots, it is reassuring that these two countries are located in temperate climates. As for tourism, here’s the list of the most popular tourist destinations that’s as fickle as the target list of a prospective language learner. France, Italy and Germany were on the itinerary of the gentlemanly Grand Tour for over 300 years.

Top tourist destinations in 2006 (millions of arrivals)
1. France 79.1
2. Spain 58.5
3. United States 51.1
4. China 49.6
5. Italy 41.1
6. United Kingdom 30.7
7. Germany 23.6
8. Mexico 21.4
9. Austria 20.3
10. Russian Federation 20.2


Anonymous said...

eh how bout arabic? its spoken in 25 countries!!!

reineke said...

I have mentioned that the Arab world stretches across some 12.9 million square kilometers. Arabs speak different, often mutually unintelligible varieties of Arabic.