Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Which languages work best for Twitter?

Every character counts when it comes to microblogging, and it seems that some languages are much better at saying more with less. That's according to a recent Economist article I read ('Twtr', issue March 31 - April 6), which said that a 78-character tweet in English would only be 24 characters long when translated into Chinese, making "Chinese ideal for micro-blogs".

In the article, they included a graph showing how languages compared in terms of the number of characters they use when 1,000 characters of English text was translated. It showed how the romance tongues like Spanish and Portuguese were more verbose than English, needing more characters, while Chinese and Arabic were much more efficient.

I decided to make this infographic version of the graph, and I picked out five languages to compare with the 1,000-character English text.

Infographic showing how some languages use more characters than others when the same text is translated.

In terms of which languages are used most on Twitter, the Economist article said that Twitter's growth around the globe has meant that the proportion of tweets in English has fallen from two-thirds in 2009 to 39% now. It also mentioned how Twitter was helping to connect speakers of less commonly-spoken languages, such as Basque, and possibly contribute to reviving these tongues - 140 characters at a time.


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