Which languages have any global impact?
Languages vary enormously in global importance. We find that the structure of these three global (inter-)language networks (GLNs), Wikipedia/Twitter/Translated Books, is centered on English as a global hub and around a handful of intermediate hub languages.
These include Spanish, German, French, Russian, Portuguese, and Chinese. [Graph].
Economist writer Johnson notes: Three Western-born products, mass book-publishing industry, Wikipedia and Twitter are still meaningful: Twitter really is globally important (just ask the Iranian mullahs or the former president of Tunisia). Sina Weibo (China) and VK (Russia’s Facebook) are not. Their homemade nature may be a point of pride—it certainly keeps censors happy—but it also means cutting down a country’s cultural influence.
For the language learner, should you learn a language popular among global elites or one whose number of globetrotting bilinguals is small relative to its importance? Given China’s huge role in the global economy, the number of outsiders fluent in Chinese is still far too few.
So are we globally going to learn Chinese any time soon?