2013-02-22

The Melting Pot Of New York, Seen In Its Multilingual Tweets

Mapping the languages of everyone using Twitter in New York shows the insane diversity of the city’s spoken languages and also where both tourists and local foreign language speakers are congregating.

You can walk the streets of New York City and hear a veritable babel of languages. It’s estimated that as many as 800 languages are spoken around the city. A new mapping project takes a look at which ones are the most spoken on social media.

Visualizing the location of the 8.5 million geo-located tweets sent from devices in the five boroughs between January 2010 and February 2013, the interactive Twitter NYC map provides a colorful snap shot of digital life in New York. Tweets were sorted by language using Google’s translation tools, color-coded, and then plotted on a map. Spanish tweets are noted by a blue dot, Portuguese by a red dot, and Japanese by a green dot.

As project co-creator Ed Manley wrote in a blog post, "it is immediately clear how Manhattan dominates as the centre for Twitter activity in New York." It also is the most multilingual area on Twitter, particularly in tourist-dense destinations like Times Square (which you can see above).

Mostly, though, people in New York are tweeting in English: 95% of tweets analyzed by the project were in that language. The next top language, Spanish, accounted for 2.7% of tweets. New York’s top Twitter languages (after English) were Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, Korean, and French. If you’re looking for the neighborhoods with the most linguistic diversity combined with tech savvy, Manley also notes that the most popular zones for non-English tweets are South Brooklyn, Coney Island, and Jackson Heights.

A concentration of Spanish tweets traces the path of Roosevelt Boulevard in Queens.

This list of top tweeted languages differs from that of New York’s top six foreign languages: Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian, and French Creole. You’ll note that there are not a lot of Chinese tweeters despite there being lots of Chinese speakers in New York, and that Portuguese and French tourists must tweet a lot when they’re here. Of course, the map doesn’t say who is living in New York and who is a tourist. Do Chinese and Italian speakers living in New York just not like to use Twitter? Or are Portuguese and French very active on Twitter, tweeting about what they’re seeing in New York for the people back home?

The New York map is a follow up to the same team’s Twitter map of London from late last year.

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