A Map of the Twitter Universe, Language by Language

by Translation Guy on February 15, 2012

200 million tweets a day is a lot of tweets. And they are all in one dang language or another. Which languages and where?

Eric Fischer has created a global map of language communities on Twitter. Eric used Chrome’s open-source language detector which has recently been extracted into a stand-alone library by Mike McCandless. (This is part of an amazing body of work by Eric which you can check out here.)

Lots of data here. (You can see only slivers of the high-rez version on your screen). English is colored in grey to keep it from overwhelming the other languages. Just beautify to behold, and many strange stories woven on these threads.

Frank Jacobs has taken a close look. “What does this map tell us? First of all, like those world-at-night maps, it shows us where all the people are – at least those tweeting. Western Europe is lit up like a Christmas tree – with the Netherlands glowing especially bright. Eastern Europe: not so much. Russia is a spider’s web of large cities connected through the darkness of the vast, empty countryside. In East Asia, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia stand out. India is much darker – but maybe that’s because English, no longer majoritarian but still dominant, is rendered in subdued grey.”

So the Netherlands glows brightest blue among the sharply defined borders linguistic borders of the European Union. High population density and a high density of Twitters among Dutchmen make the nation particularly bright.

South Korea and Japan are other Twitter bright spots, thanks to explosive growth of the social media software in recent years in these affluent and highly connected societies. China is in the dark, sort of, due to an official ban, but plenty seem to be managing to tweet away just fine. North Korea remains in the dark, with only a few non-Korean tweet-spots meaning who knows what.

Equally strange, the vast amount of tweeting off the coast of Japan. Are squid boats lighting the twitter ionosphere the same way they light up the seas around Japan at night? Is that gap in coverage along the Northeast Coast of Japan the nuclear exclusion zone? Check your radiation badges.

More regional close ups at the Atlantic Chart of the Day and Frank Jacob’s at bigthink.


  1. Gaurav Kumar says:

    Very interesting maps. I would also like to know the age groups that twitter. If I had to guess, I would say mostly young people.

  2. I would like to think that the US Tweets the most, but it certainly isn’t the brightest country. Maybe Japan?

    • Ken says:

      Remember that English has been grayed out to make it easier to see the non-English relationships. Otherwise English would overwhelm all the other languages combined.

  3. Look at the whole map. Where’s Africa?

    • Ken says:

      Darkest Africa is a hateful concept. Will social media set it alight?

  4. The European map is just beautiful with the different colors.

  5. Amazing – this is a great (and fast) way to see where the different languages of the world are being spoken in majority. I would like to also see a map that takes away all languages except English to see its prevalence.

  6. Gordon Hurst says:

    Is there a way to see how many are done on mobile devices? I would also like to see a map for each hour of the day to see any pattern of use.

  7. Wow, South Korea looks like an island.

    • Ken says:

      Sad, isn’t it? The South is bright in comparison to the slave state to the North.

  8. Thanks for the link to Eric’s page. I spent quite a bit of time clicking through his pictures. Very interesting.

  9. Lomy Lendl says:

    Who needs radar when looking for the enemy? Just map their tweets. End of the game!

  10. Meredith Wu says:

    So cool. A while back I say a similar kind of map that showed lights at night. It outlined congested cities the most, but this map is nicer with the color.

  11. Eugene Yu says:

    I would have thought California would have been brighter with all of the celebs twitting all the time.

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