Randomness (r_ness) wrote,

Mostly a note to myself, on languages.

So, if the intent is to be able to talk to the maximum number of people on the planet, here are the languages I should learn. Numbers vary wildly, so this is only a guide. (Highest estimate for total number of users, native and non-native in millions from each language's Wikipedia page, fetched 29 May 12.):

English 1800
Mandarin Chinese 1020
(Castilian) Spanish 500
Hindi-Urdu 490
Arabic (dialect chain) 340

French 275
Russian 258
Portuguese 252
Bengali 230
Malay 180

Swahili 150
Japanese 127
German 120
Persian 110
Punjabi 104

Turkish 91
Italian 85
Javanese 85
Vietnamese 81
(Jiangxinese) Gan-Hakka Chinese 80

Thai/Lao-Isan 80
Korean 78
(Shanghainese) Wu Chinese 77
Telugu 74
Marathi 72

Gujarati 65.5
Tamil 65
(Filipino) Tagalog 64.3
Pashto 60
(Cantonese) Yue Chinese 56

Dutch/Afrikaans 51
(Hokkien) Min Nan 50
Kannada 47
Oriya 45
Ukrainian 45

Polish 44
Burmese 42

Obviously, diminishing returns set in after a while. But I've made a pretty good start on the first two. Perhaps the plan should be to learn a hundred words in each language, and be able to string them together in some way intelligible to someone who actually speaks the language.

Compiling this list has really brought home to me the messiness of language classification. It has also reminded me how true it is that languages are dialects with flags.
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