The map reflects 8.5 million geo-located tweets.

The map shows that the greatest hotbed of linguistic diversity--at least on Twitter--lies in Midtown.

Some regions, such as the Bronx, are dominated by Spanish, as you’d expect.

But one thing striking about the maps is how relatively few multilingual tweets you find outside of Manhattan, even though it’s an obvious hotbed of multiculturalism. That seems likely to be an indicator of the high-income, high-education demographics of Twitter itself.

The map also exists for London.

But the most immediately striking thing in comparison is how very few other languages you see across London’s broad expanse.

Infographic: The Languages Of New York, Mapped By Tweets

Who speaks which languages in New York? One team looked at 8.5 million tweets to map it out.

It looks like every block of NYC has been wrapped in Christmas lights, but in reality, you’re looking at the nine most prominently tweeted languages across the city (aside from English).

The map was created by James Cheshire, Ed Manley, and John Barratt, who collected 8.5 million geo-located tweets between January 2010 and February 2013. To build the image itself, they placed a point every 50 meters across the city. Tweets falling in close proximity were translated into a grid that you see here.

The trends are immediately fascinating. Midtown Manhattan is hugely multilingual, like a someone spilled a jar of confetti across the island--and in fact, the only other place that’s so diverse is probably JFK International Airport. Spanish speakers seem to web their way into every borough, focusing a stronghold in the Bronx, while Russian rules Brighton Beach and Portuguese dominates Newark.

Of course, all of these bursts of color represent a mere 6% of all tweeting in the city, with the other 94% belonging to English speakers (who, of course, may have multilingual speaking patterns that aren’t represented by their tweeting patterns). Even still, projects like this one are fascinating from an urban planning perspective. A relatively simple analysis of big data reveals, with extreme specificity, where various nationalities reside inside a giant urban melting pot. Even the minor possible interactions one can glean from this--like should the city distribute language-specific emergency information to certain blocks?--seem powerful on the sense of scale alone.

It makes you wonder, with all the data hiding inside, will social media ever have a chance to improve our lives? Or will the vast majority of it merely be leveraged to sell us extremely specific jeans?

Try it here.

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5 Comments

  • D Time

    "Even still, projects like this one are fascinating from an urban planning perspective. A relatively simple analysis of big data reveals, with extreme specificity, where various nationalities reside inside a giant urban melting pot."
    Nah... unless there's some invisible Czech-Arabic-Indonesian neighborhood stretching from 59th st to Battery Park, I'm willing to bet almost all of the tweets here with the exception of Spanish represent tourists checking in from the sites and stores of Manhattan.

  • Katwo Puertollano

    I'm surprised Filipino isn't spoken! Shit, my language is dead online.

  • Bish10

    What this doesn't show is the data behind the user. My guess is that the predominate amount of these twits were tourists their usage while while in NYC and their need to use Twitter because of sight seeing. So in that case, unsure how it would help Urban planning.