London’s Languages, Mapped By Tube Stop

London’s linguistic diversity is no secret, but it’s not easy to visualize all the different languages spoken in the city. A new map from Oliver O’Brien makes it easier by  showing the top languages other than English spoken at each tube station.

O’Brien, a researcher at the University College London Department of Geography, used 2011 census data and Open Street Map to create an interactive map of all of London’s tube stops, showing the top language (other than English, which is still the most commonly spoken language at every stop) spoken in a 200-meter radius of each station.

Each language has its own color, and the larger the circle, the higher the percentage of area residents who speak that language. Click on the individual stations for more detailed data about all the languages commonly spoken in that location.

As O’Brien notes in his blog, the map data makes it possible to come to some interesting conclusions about the areas around the different stops. For example,

[T]he most linguistically diverse tube station to be Turnpike Lane on the Piccadilly Line in north-east London, which has 16 languages spoken by more than 1% of the population there, closely followed by Pudding Mill Lane with 15 (though this area has a low population so the confidence is lower). By contrast, almost 98% of people living near Theydon Bois, on the Central Line, speak English as their primary language. English is the most commonly spoken language at every tube station, although at five stations – Southall, Alperton, Wembley Central, Upton Park and East Ham – the proportion is below 50%.

More importantly, O’Brien told the Guardian, the map makes the data more easily understandable and relatable for the average person:

“Conventional maps of demographic data can be quite abstract to look at – they can be quite hard to relate to where people live,” explains O’Brien. “By combining statistical data from the census with the familiar lines of the London Underground network, the graphic becomes more relatable to a city where everyone knows their nearest tube station.

For full access to the interactive map, click here.

London’s Top 5 Languages (Other Than English)

London businesses can ensure they connect with all of their customers by translating marketing material, advertisements and information as necessary.  With that in mind, here are the top 5 languages, other than English, spoken in the city.

Polish– Almost 2 percent of Londoners speak Polish as their primary language, according to the 2011 census.  The top tube stations for Polish speakers include Perivale, Hanger Lane, Greenford, Hanwell and Park Royal.

Bengali- Bengali is native to Bangladesh and to West Bengal, Tripura and Southern Assam in India. It is also the native language for 1.5% of Londoners. According to the map, you’re most likely to hear it spoken at the following tube stops: Shadwell, Whitechapel, Cambridge Heath, Devon’s Road, Bromley-by-Bow, All Saints, Poplar, and Bow Road.

Gujarati: Gujarati hails from the West Indian region of Gujarat. About 1.3% of the city’s populations speaks it, and you’re most likely to hear it at the following stations: Alperton, Wembley Central, Kingsbury and Queensbury.

French: About 1.1% of the population claims French as their primary language. French speakers tend to cluster around South Kensington, Gloucester Road and Earl’s Court, with smaller clusters located around the Green Park, Tottenham Court Road, and

Urdu: Spoken in Pakistan and parts of India,  Urdu is most commonly heard in London around the following stops: Walthamstow Central and Walthamstow Queens Road, Ilford, Seven Kings and Barking.

In a city as diverse as London, knowing who speaks what language in your target market is a definite business advantage. K International  can help translate your business communications into all of the languages listed above, and more.

Ponglish: Diary of a Pole

Ponglish: Diary of a Pole

Eight years ago I arrived in the UK with my fellow countrymen: rocket scientists, brain surgeons, state attorneys, film directors and hairdressers. They let us flow out of the plane and spread all over the country.

Back home, in Poland, I grew up watching Mr. Bean, listening to Brit Rock and thinking every Londoner has marmalade on toast with tea for breakfast. Having lived here for nearly a decade I have developed an affection to my current whereabouts. I can’t really imagine living without this beloved dry humour! Even though Mr. Bean is yet to be spotted.

Apart from the friendly mentality of the Brits (most of you will frown now), I like the language. Which paradoxically becomes a lingua franca even amongst the Poles themselves. Some fifteen years ago I had my auntie come over from the USA, she tended to throw in some odd American-sounding words into her ever exaggerated statements. Back then I thought: “What did she catch out there?!” Read more

London Cabbies to Take Language Lessons for 2012 Olympics

As London prepares to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, even cabbies are getting in on the act. In order to better communicate with foreign visitors, around 3,000 cabdrivers working for Radio Taxi are taking CD and MP3-based courses in  French, Spanish and Chinese.

In an article on the BBC, Radio Taxi CEO Geoffrey Riesel explained the purpose of the program:

“In 2012 we expect to see an extra 10 million people in London…We are attempting to ensure many more of our drivers can pick up some of the basic phrases of a number of languages.”

However, lest the Olympic attendees be deprived of the wit and wisdom of London cabbies, the lessons go a step beyond basic phrases. According to The Australian,  while the lessons are not designed to make the cabbies fluent in the various languages, they are designed to allow them to go beyond transactional phrases and engage in some light, playful banter with their clients. Sample course phrases include: “I had that Michael Caine in the back of my cab last week” and “It’s political correctness gone mad.” For each language they learn, the drivers will receive a flag to put on their vehicle, advertising their linguistic proficiency to potential customers.

Carlos Oliveira,a driver for Radio Taxi, told the Australian that he believes the language classes will be beneficial:

“The first people these foreigners are going to see are cab drivers, so if we can show them that we parlez a bit of their language then that’s got to be a good thing. To be able to say ‘welcome’ in Chinese would go a long way.”

Cash Machines in London go all Cockney

According to the BBC five cash machines in east London will be talking in cockney for the next three months. The cash machines belong to Bank Machine’s ATM’s. Customers will be able to choose Cockney as a language option.

They can expect to see phrases such as ‘please enter you huckleberry Finn’ rather than ‘pin’ and they will have to select how much ‘sausage and mash’ (cash) they want.

Ron Delnevo, the managing director of Bank Machine is quoted as saying, “We wanted to introduce something fun and of local interest to our London machines.”

It’s certainly a novelty and it will be of interest not only to tourists but to residence as well. You can be sure they will have a butcher’s (look) when they are taking out a speckled hen (£10), any trouble and they will have to contact their rattle and tank (bank).

London’s Languages, Mapped in Tweets

With more than 300 languages spoken, London is truly a diverse city. But what does that diversity look like on a map? To find out, two researchers from University College London used Twitter to visualize the city’s many languages via its tweets. You can see a screenshot of the result above, but I recommend clicking through to the original version on researcher James Chesire’s blog for a more detailed version.

Diversity aside, 92.5 percent of the tweets on the map are in English. Other common languages (in order of prominence) were Spanish, French, Turkish, Arabic and Portuguese.

After collecting the tweets, the researchers applied an algorithm derived from the one Google Chrome uses to identify the languages of the websites you encounter while surfing the web. The algorithm made short work of sorting the tweets by language. For some reason, though, it misclassified English-language with repetitive acronyms like “lololol” and “hahahaha” as belonging to the Philippine language of Tagalog. So, all “Tagalog” tweets had to be discarded.

Once that was done, the researchers were left with a set of geolocated tweets in 66 different languages. Color-coded and placed on a map, they create what James Chesire called a “paint-speckled effect” that showcases London’s linguistic diversity.

However, as researcher Ed Manley noted on his blog, London is actually even more diverse than the map indicates:

“In total, 92.5% of tweets are detected as English, far above existing estimations (60%) of English speakers in London. While languages you’d expect to score highly – such as Bengali and Somali – barely feature at all. Either people only tweet in English, or usage of Twitter varies significantly among language groups in London.”

Of course, a city’s Twitter users are by no means a representative sample of the population. On his blog, Chesire explains that the tweets they were able to map represent an even more selective data set, as “they only include people who have a good location (through GPS) and those who are connected to the internet.”

Even with those limitations in mind, the map is still quite fascinating. What do you think of it?

London Tube Translation

Translating the Tube

You may have heard London’s long standing tube network hit a milestone this month, 150 years old! 270 stations, more than 200 miles of track and an incredible 3 million passengers a day on average, that’s a lot of newspapers.

It’s been a busy time for our friends at Transport for London, with more than half a million foreign visitors pitching up to enjoy both the Olympics and Paralympics last Summer alone. With an influx of so many people using the iconic tube network, Transport for London had to make sure that everyone was able to find their way around, a pretty epic task! Read more