We do have an article like that somewhere, but concerning the map, I think there are some errors. If "light yellow" (English as a second language) is the color used in South Korea and Japan, I would call that misleading... Shouldn't all of Quebec be green (French)? More of central Asia knows Russian, Kenyans and Tanzanians speak English as a second language, The "light black" is actually dark green, are you sure that Mandarin is known by all of Southeast Asia?, etc. ChubbyWimbus 17:29, 13 December 2009 (EST)
Quite a nice idea but some problems with the implementation. In addition to the errors pointed out by ChubbyWimbus above:
Malaysia and Singapore do not speak Indonesian. Malaysia should be English as 2nd language. Singapore could arguably be primary English speaking.
Africa has a number of issues.
What does the light grey denote?--Burmesedays 00:34, 15 December 2009 (EST)
really on the en wikitravel, the propensity to speak English is the most useful fact to an English speaking traveller, i would have thought. Holland, Scandinavia, etc - before going to learn another language which is a second language to the country anyway.. --inas 00:45, 15 December 2009 (EST)
The light grey presumably denotes nations where none of the colored languages are spoken. To add another issue, Icelandic is spoken in Iceland. If this map were used, I think it could only possibly be used for the Phrasebook International (which is currently nominated for deletion). Otherwise, the languages spoken in each country are covered in country articles along with whether or not English will be understood. ChubbyWimbus 00:53, 15 December 2009 (EST)
The basic idea is good, but the topic is complicated.
In Canada, French is the primary language for all of Quebec, much of Northern Ontario and parts of other provinces, but English is widely spoken in those areas as well. There's huge variation, though; in some areas (e.g. parts of Montreal), you're fine with just English, but in others (e.g. Northern Quebec) you're helpless without French.
Mandarin is useful almost anywhere in China, since it has been the lingua franca for centuries and the only language used in education, government and national media for 50-odd years. However, for Hong Kong & Macau, Cantonese is more important. Mandarin is also an official language in Singapore, but other Chinese dialects are more widely used.
In many places, language use has political overtones. Speaking Mandarin in Tibet or English in Quebec may irritate some people.
For travellers, the most important languages are what Phrasebook International calls regional languages. Quoting that "Learn some of a regional language. Russian for Central Asia, Arabic for the Middle East and North Africa, French for some parts of Africa, Spanish for Latin America. This may be easier than trying to learn the local languages and is more widely useful." I'd like to see a map that emphasizes those. Pashley 20:20, 15 December 2009 (EST)
This map looks like an attempt to do that, though. It just has a lot of errors. I mean, aside from the languages listed, there are not so many other "linguistic spheres". Some, like Korean or Japanese, could be listed, but they have no sphere of influence. You could make a case for Swahili, but English is understood by most people that speak it. I'm on the fence about the usefulness of any such map, although I would be surprised if the phrasebook international got very many hits anyway. ChubbyWimbus 22:39, 15 December 2009 (EST)
The world's major regional languages
Here's an attempt to create something more useful for our purposes. I initially tried to have English on the map too, but deciding which countries to include was just impossible—I think a separate color coded map showing the percentage of people per country that you'll be able to reasonably communicate with in English would be much more useful. This one just looks at the top 7 (I think) languages in order of relevance for travelers, and shows for which countries the language should be useful. The most obvious weakness is that this map cannot show tiny countries.
Having a Talk article devoted to language and travel might be interesting. --PeterTalk 00:15, 16 December 2009 (EST)
Awesome map, but English surely is missing, at least for Canada, United States, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. German is tricky, but I think it at least should be listed for Germany, Austria and most of Switzerland. English will get you further in the Netherlands (though German is partially understood), and I'm not sure if either German, Russian or English should be the best language for East-Central Europe. Southeast and East Asia is complicated as well: I don't think English fits here, even though it's probably the best language for the area. Globe-trotter 07:07, 16 December 2009 (EST)
Yes, this map is much better. Is Persian worth adding? Farsi is the main language of Iran, Dari one of two in Afghanistan and they are mostly mutually intelligible. Tajik and I think some other Central Asian languages are related.
I think English would need its own map, broken up into a scale: UK/US/etc. where it is the primary language, areas like Quebec/India/Singapore/etc. where it is an official language & widely spoken but not the main daily language, places like Amsterdam and where you can generally get by with only English, places like Paris where it is harder, places like most of China where you can expect English only from 5-star hotel staff and the odd student. Pashley 08:10, 16 December 2009 (EST)
What about Hindustani? (Is that term still in use?) My understanding is that spoken Hindi and Urdu are, at least mostly, mutually intelligible. The written forms use different alphabets, Sanskrit-derived for Hindi and Arabic/Persian for Urdu. Does that qualify as a regional language for the subcontinent? Pashley 08:33, 16 December 2009 (EST)
My first thought was similar to Peter and Pashley's - a map to show the English speaker how they'll fare in the countries of the world. Perhaps grouped by percentage of English speakers, or by category eg "Almost universal",..."Typically only hotel reception staff". But going beyond that I think there would be merit in similar maps for other major world languages - then the traveller can get an idea of where their Spanish or Russian will get them by. Andyfarrell 10:35, 16 December 2009 (EST)
English-speaking percent of population by country
The problem with English is that it is a global language, useful almost everywhere, very often overlapping with the lingua francas we're trying to show above—the map quickly becomes a mess. I found a handy wikipedia:List_of_countries_by_English-speaking_population, but it's quite incomplete, and consequently, so is this map.
I've added Persian, German, and Hindustani (I didn't realize Urdu and Hindi were so clearly mutually intelligible!), as you can see from the updated thumb above. I'm not terribly convinced a working knowledge of Farsi will go very far in Tajikistan, whereas Russian will get you everywhere you want to go. The other Central Asian languages are all Turkic. --PeterTalk 01:16, 17 December 2009 (EST)
This map is much better than the originally proposed map! One thing: It appears that Spanish is the language of northern Quebec on this map. Shouldn't it be French, as well? (this comment is about the regional language map) ChubbyWimbus 01:27, 17 December 2009 (EST)
I have no idea why Quebec is frustrating Inkscape so, truly, it is a troublesome province. --PeterTalk 01:47, 17 December 2009 (EST)
I love the (potential of the) English map. As well as filling in the blank countries it could do with refining further region by region within countries, eg in Yucatan it seemed a lot more than 0-5% spoke some English. Perhaps we could do that by compiling traveller experiences in text form first. I like the idea of a general Talk article within travel topics, which could use this map plus some of the material from Phrasebook International which it could possibly replace, and be a general guide to coping with language when travelling. Andyfarrell 03:14, 17 December 2009 (EST)
The "Talk" article idea sounds like a good solution to the Phrasebook International problems discussed on the votes for deletion page. I agree that using countries as the primary unit makes certain parts seem as though they speak more or less English than they do, but it's also a lot more manageable than dividing every country by state/province/prefecture. If the map is accompanied by text, I think differences could be pointed out in the text. The map is just a general overview, so people considering travel to a certain region can go to that region's article to learn more specific information about it. ChubbyWimbus 03:39, 17 December 2009 (EST)
Austria should be fit with German on the map. Switzerland is a harder case, it's split between German, French and Italian: most of the country speaks German though. Globe-trotter 20:54, 22 December 2009 (EST)
I started a Talk article. Pashley 21:17, 22 December 2009 (EST)
It seems to me that it would be a good idea to relate this topic to the Talk section that can be added to almost every Wikitravel article. I see the possibility of also creating travel topics called See, Do, Eat, Drink, Sleep, etc. These topics would tally with the respective article sections and be a general guide to each of the subject sections.
While a good start has been made on the topic of Talk, the article, as it stands, is very English-centric. I can understand that a useful starting point for a Talk article is going to be about communicating in, or without, English. But I would challenge the implicit assumption that it should be about inglish exclusively. Perhaps the article is better titled Talk English, if it is to be about English exclusively. I think a general introduction about Talking with others who do not share your native language(s) is needed. - Huttite 20:37, 23 December 2009 (EST)
Since this article was only recently created, I think there is a lot of room to work within this article to provide further details about "Talk" with/in non-English languages. It needs more input in basically every field, so I imagine it will change a lot, if people start contributing. ChubbyWimbus 20:50, 23 December 2009 (EST)
What is there is very much a first cut, nearly all copied from the two things linked to above. It was not intended to be remarkably English-centric, though this is English WT so it mainly addresses English speakers. There are sections on topics unrelated to English — "regional languages" and "coping without a language"; both could be expanded.
I think a section on how to learn a language could be added. It likely needs something on alphabets, too. Is it useful to earn the Cyrillic alphabet to puzzle out signs, even if you speak little or no Russian? What about the Arabic, Hebrew, Tamil, .. alphabets? How can one cope with non-alphabetic systems like Chinese? There are probably things worth adding that haven't even occurred to me.
I like the current focus (and title) as it is likely to be of most use to the native English speaker, and this is the English Wikitravel. On the Spanish Wikitravel version of the article (if one appeared) I'd expect to find the topic approached from the viewpoint of coping for a native Spanish speaker. Andyfarrell 01:49, 4 January 2010 (EST)
Someone recently added this to the list of regional languages. I'm inclined to delete it as insufficiently important and not widespread enough. WP says < 50 million speakers, way below other languages we list, and as far as I know, it is not much spoken outside former Yugoslavia. Anyone else want to comment? Pashley 21:08, 4 September 2010 (EDT)
I agree with you. It doesn't seem to have the number of speakers or spread across nations to be considered a major regional language. ChubbyWimbus 01:04, 5 September 2010 (EDT)
As Burmesedays said above, isn't Singapore primarily English- (or Singlish-) speaking? When I visited in 1976, very few of the people I met spoke Malay - actually, only members of the Malay minority seemed to speak much Malay at all, though I admit my visit was very short. Has Malay-speaking among non-Malays in Singapore actually increased since then? I doubt it, but I stand to be corrected. Ikan Kekek 01:46, 25 July 2011 (EDT)
English (of a usually very peculiar variety :) ), Mandarin and various other Chinese dialects are the most widely heard languages in Singapore. However, Malay is an official state language, the national anthem is even sung in Malay (Majulah Singapura) and I think about 14% of the population is ethnically Malay. It is therefore probably appropriate to include Singapore amongst countries where Malay is spoken. --Burmesedays 02:26, 25 July 2011 (EDT)