We Love Language Maps

Hear a word in dozens of languages. (wordmap.co)

I’m a word geek. You may be one too. Common symptoms include large vocabularies, the tendency to laugh at grammar jokes, taking delight in obscure terms, and yes, ostracism in some social situations. Many of us also, for word-ish reasons, adore maps.

So it’s no surprise that my word nerd friends and I are enthused about Word Map. Enter any word you’d like and a salmon-hued Google map populates with the word’s translations. As it appears over each country you can hear it pronounced in dozens of languages including Hindi, Swahili, Arabic, Dutch, Mongolian, Javanese, and Urdu. Once the map is filled, lines connect countries with common languages. Click on any of the spellings and a pop-up box appears with information about the region and language spoken there. It does a great job with common words like “mother,” not so well with less common words like “bumfuzzle.” No matter, it’s still fun.

Here are a few more alluring sites, in case you love language maps too.

Lexicalist scans through millions of words shared on the net, analyzing the way different demographics talk and what they talk about. This information is broken down into three kinds of demographics: age, gender, and geography. By typing in the word “inspiration” I discovered people in the U.S. are talking about inspiration 42% more today than they were a few weeks ago, on average using it once every 21,275 words (although they use OMG once every 1,822 words). I also learned that “xióng māo yǎn,” which means “having dark under eye circles, eyes like a panda,” is trending among women in China.

Joshua Katz created amazing visualizations based on research conducted by Bert Vaux and Scott Golder in the Harvard Dialect Survey. Here are 22 maps showing linguistic divides in the U.S. Do you belong to the “crawdad, crayfish, or crawfish” part of the country?

Take the NYT dialect test, also based on the above research. Your personal dialect results show up with each answer you provide to questions like the one asking if you use two syllables or three to pronounce “caramel.”

For additional word wonders, check out “The Best Language Maps,” a list compiled by high school teacher and author, Larry Ferlazzo.

Laura is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning. She lives on a small farm notable only for its lovestruck goose.