Welsh among the top 50 most influential languages in the world
Welsh is now among the top 50 most influential languages in the world, according to a French government study.
The latest edition of the World Language Barometer, which ranks more than 600 languages on 13 criteria ranging from the number of speakers to its online presence, places Welsh in 45th position.
That’s an increase of 10 places since the last edition in 2017, with Welsh leapfrogging languages with millions more speakers like Afrikaans and Tamil.
When it comes to numbers of speakers, Welsh sits in 343rd place between Pangasinan, an official language of the Philippines, and Venda, which is used by around 2.5% of the population of South Africa.
And time might not be on our side, according to the study, which places Welsh in 477th place when it comes to “fertility”.
But Welsh punches above its weight because of economic and social factors.
With 278,583 articles, a relatively strong presence on Wikipedia is one of its advantages, the study shows.
As is use in universities, where Welsh ranks 81st in the world, just ahead of Egyptian Arabic which has 70 million speakers.
Influence is also accorded to Welsh simply as a result of it being spoken in a part of the world with a relatively high level of GDP, life expectancy and education.
Professor Alain Calvert, one of the authors of the study, explained: “What are the strengths of Welsh? It benefits from being spoken in the UK. It is present on Wikipedia and above all has high values on the translation parameters as original and target language. These shows that speakers of Welsh are active and Welsh educated.
“One of its weaknesses is that it is not an [international] communication language. Someone speaking Welsh will most likely communicate with someone speaking Frisian using English .
“By comparison, Afrikaans has many speakers, it is official in South Africa and several of its provinces, and is a communication language. But it is spoken in a less developed country and it is not an important original or target language as far as translation is involved.”
The authors admit “it can appear useless” to try to rank languages, but say their method of studying the “influence” of languages builds a more useful picture than simply looking at the number of speakers of each language.
Mandarin and Hindi are the two most spoken languages in the world, according to the study. But neither feature in its list of the top 10 most influential languages, which are all European.
English, French and Spanish are at the top of the ranking. Mandarin is 15th, some three places behind Catalan, and Hindi is 39th, just six places above Welsh.
Linguist David Crystal said recently that Welsh had done “wonderfully well” compared to other minority languages.
“Welsh is one of the success stories of the 20th century in terms of the revitalization process”, he told S4C’s Stori’r Iaith programme.
“Welsh is in the top 7% of the languages of the world as far as number of speakers is concerned.”
The programme’s host, comedian Elis James, quipped that it was a “Premier League” performance.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.