WHAT ARE THE MOST RECOGNIZABLE LANGUAGES IN THE WORLD?
by Federica Fugazzotto
With the help of an online game, some researchers tried to answer this question.
What’s the most recognizable language in the world? Do you really think you know the answer? Let me tell you something that might surprise you: according to a study recently published on the online scientific journal Public Library of Science (Plos), English’s not the one.
Researchers worked on the results obtained worldwide by the gamers of The Great Language Game, an online contest that asks users to listen to a short audio track and pick one language among 4 different options. Players get 50 points if their answer is correct, and can get a maximum of 3 wrong answers before losing the game. At the end of the game one can also read some interesting overviews about the languages she/he did not guess right.
Researchers analyzed 15 million tries, made up of 400 records and 78 languages and, when drawing conclusions, considered many different elements such as the number of speakers of a certain language, the number of languages for every language area (european languages are the most present with 11 Slavic, 7 Germanic and 5 Romance languages) and even the quality of the recording.
And now let’s have a look at the results.
As I mentioned earlier, the most-guessed language is not English (even though – being the game page in English – we may assume that players knew it quite well). So, what’s the answer? The mostly recognized language is, rataplan, French! As far as the other Romance languages are concerned, Italian and Spanish are recognized frequently but they’re often mistaken with each other.
The two languages that were most frequently mistaken have Indian roots – Punjabi and Kannada – while the ones that got nearly never confused are French and Vietnamese.
Researchers have also tried to analyze the reasons that make some languages more (or less) identifiable than others. Of course confusion increases in the case of idioms spoken in geographically neighbouring areas. Phonetical similarity played an important rule for users, but researchers admitted that it was quite hard to draw conclusions, since in the game some linguistic families were more represented than others.
Also results showed that, in general, players managed to guess the right language on about 70% of the cases and managed to get more and more accurate while going ahead with the game.
And what about you? Do you think you might get better results? If you want to have a go, here’s the link: let us know your results!
Federica Fugazzotto - Editorial translator from English into Italian and full-time nerd. She loves stories more than anything else on Earth but does not mind a glass of good red wine.
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." Nelson Mandela