In-Demand Languages.

Mauro Oubel sent me the WordTips post The Language That Each City Wants to Learn the Most; sure, it’s fluffy clickbait, and there aren’t many surprises (people everywhere sure do want to study English!), but there are some interesting tidbits:

Meanwhile, in Canberra, Australia, locals are learning Japanese the most. At the beginning of the 21st century, around one in 10 Australian school students were studying Japanese. Japanese comes top in Singapore, too, where one in two adults have watched anime, a popular Japanese animation style. […] In 13 other cities, Japanese comes top, one of the most in-demand languages by U.S. employers. Honolulu in Hawaii is one such city where locals may be learning the language to better communicate with the city’s large Japanese-American community or because it is part of their heritage. […]

London continues the trend of Spanish being the most learned language, with 29.25% of locals learning the language on Conversation Exchange. Spain is the UK’s number one vacation destination, so perhaps locals of the UK capital are leveling up their lingo for their next holiday.

Unrelated, but I recently discovered the term occhiolism, “The awareness of the small scope of one’s own perspective and the way it limits one’s ability to fully understand the world”:

Coined by American author and neologist John Koenig, creator of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, from Italian occhiolino (“little eye”), the name given by inventor Galileo to a prototype microscope in the early 1600s.

I’m not normally a fan of invented words, but I like this one, which represents a concept important to me. Good for Koenig!


  1. Stu Clayton says

    Then I’m an occhiolic. Behind the bluster, I am a martyr to modesty.


    “Life is short. And life is long. But not in that order..

    The book will be published this year.

  2. Yes, Altschmerz is good also.

  3. “Wants to learn” is an interesting framing, versus “is learning,” also used in the text. Or “is being taught,” which maybe applies to secondary school experiences.

  4. Another nice one from Koenig, somewhat related, is sonder, “the feeling one has on realizing that every other individual one sees has a life as full and real as one’s own, in which they are the central character and others, including oneself, have secondary or insignificant roles.”

  5. David Eddyshaw says


    Buligin ziŋ zi’ kɔligin yɛlaa.
    “The fish in the pool doesn’t know how things are in the river.”

    My name is David, and I’m an occhiolic.

  6. David Eddyshaw says

    Interesting to see French as the most in-demand in Abuja. But I suppose that learning of Hausa or Yoruba or whatever would hardly be likely to take place via Conversation Exchange. The potential languages being learnt would be strongly limited by the medium.

    My wife was much in demand as a French teacher when we lived in Bawku, but there we were right up against the national borders with officially-Francophone Burkina Faso and Togo, so that was hardly surprising.

  7. J.W. Brewer says

    Per 2010 and thereabouts census data (which google delivered to me quicker than it would have taken me to try to find more recent data), about 25% of the population of Honolulu County (which goes beyond the city limits of Honolulu proper) was of Japanese descent in part or in whole. It’s a community primarily descended from immigration a number of generations back. Only a bit under 20% of that total reported speaking Japanese at home, of which less than half (maybe 8% of the total Japanese-American racial/ethnic group) report speaking English “less than ‘Very Well.'” In other words, a majority of the fairly small minority of Japanese-Americans with some fluency in Japanese are also fully fluent in English. If you were in Honolulu and wanted to maximize your chances of being able to communicate with neighbors with limited English proficiency, you’d be better off learning e.g. Tagalog or Ilocano, but those may lack a certain glamor factor that Japanese possesses.

  8. Toronto is not the capital city of Canada.

  9. David Eddyshaw says

    Good point.

    Actually, the “capital” thing is itself odd. In Nigeria, for example, I would be astonished if there were not many more users of “Conversation Exchange” (whatever that is) in Lagos than in Abuja. (That would also make more sense of the alleged predilection for French, given that Lagos is relatively near to officially-Francophone Benin. Abuja – not.)

  10. ə de vivre says

    The map seems to be more a measure of “what language are young professionals learning that isn’t already readily available in the country’s education system” than of wider language-learning interest trends. I don’t believe for one second that the most popular language to learn in Cape Town is Spanish.

    Of course the methodology of “focusing on users who already speak the country’s native language” contains some pretty strong assumptions that don’t hold up everywhere (with Bern and Cape Town, even the notion of “capital city” isn’t universal). Is English more popular than Russian in Astana? Even in Toronto (Canada’s capital!), one could argue that people learning French do not count as people “who already speak the country’s native language”. (Or maybe anyone who doesn’t speak an indigenous language shouldn’t count as speaking the country’s native language)

  11. Is English more popular than Russian in Astana? If, as it seems to be done here, you subtract anyone who speaks Russian natively or had it as language of instruction (as opposed to it being taught as foreign language) at school, probably yes. Even Kazakh native speakers mostly go to schools with Russian language instruction, because their academic standards tend to be higher, and even most of those who go to Kazakh language schools are normally sufficiently exposed to Russian that they don’t have to learn it formally as a foreign language.

  12. Wasn’t Abai already promoting russian academic standards a century or two ago?

  13. “If, as it seems to be done here, you subtract anyone who speaks Russian natively or had it as language of instruction”

    But are not both Russian and English mandatory since the first grade?
    (and since recently, Ru 2nd grade, En 3d grade in schools with instruction in Kazakh, Ru and Kz 1st grade, En 3d grade in schools with instruction in Russian)
    It is just like PE.

    Though, I don’t follow their numerous developments, and many of their projects don’t reflect the actual situation. At some point they declared that in high schools some subjects will be taught in English:) I doubt that this actually happened, because how.

  14. I can only say what I hear when talking to friends and my wife’s relatives in Kazakhstan. But the simple point is that almost everyone knows Russian when they start school, so Russian instruction is about learning to read and write, weeding out colloquial language and teaching the literary standard, literature, and composition, like in L1 school instruction most everywhere in the world, while English is taught as a foreign language, whatever the quality of instruction

  15. PlasticPaddy says

    What Hans said. It is possible the playground language is Russian, especially if the school straddles different ethnicities, dialects or accents. But I would be very surprised if English was a playground language, even in places like Scandinavia or Holland, where English instruction starts very early and is quite thorough.

  16. What I meant, is that when English is taught to everyone, the comparison (based on number of schools who offer it) becomes pointless, even more so when English and Russian and Kazakh are taught to everyone.

  17. @drasvi: Not if the level of English instruction is low, which it is in most schools in Kazakhstan on lower levels, from what people tell me. In that case, demand for English courses will still be high. And again, there’s a difference between instruction in a language that you already know from home and friends (Russian and, for a significant minority, Kazakh) and a language you only start acquiring in school, even if relatively early.

  18. Nat Shockley says

    “Occhiolism” is painful to look at… I think I have got to the point where I now know too much Italian to enjoy such a construction. Surely it should be “occhiolinism”… like “centralinista” (a person who works at a centralino telefonico = telephone switchboard operator)

  19. Stu Clayton says

    Surely it should be “occhiolinism”

    Well OK, but then the resonance with “alcoholic” would vanish.

    I think I have got to the point where I now know too much … to enjoy such a construction.

    How well I know this problem ! I spend half my waking hours with a hand against my forehead in aromatic pain.

  20. “In that case, demand for English courses will still be high.”

    Hans, yes, I just mean “the comparison (based on number of schools who offer it) becomes pointless”, that is, we can’t use the number of schools for this. But we of course can count paid courses, private tutors and so on. These however correlate with entrance exams in universities.

    “Not if the level of English instruction is low, which it is in most schools in Kazakhstan on lower levels, from what people tell me.” – Yes, I tried to google for foreign languages in Kazakhstan and from search results learned that it is 92nd place out of 100 countries in 2020, 104 out of 113 (22 out of 23 in Asia) in 2023 and 99 out of 111:)

  21. Zelený drak says

    I worked with many people from Kazakhstan, of various ethnic groups (most ethnic Kazakhs, but also some of more mixed backgrounds, mostly young and of middle-class background). One of them is even a very big patriot and promoter of Kazakhstan, always talking about how great it is and brining sweets from there. I have never heard them speak in Kazakh even when in groups where all o them are ethnic Kazakhs, it’s always Russian. I’ve asked them and most can speak Kazakh but never really use it, not even at home in most cases.

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