London’s Twitter Tongues


Last week Ed Manley and I published a map showing the top 10 twitter languages in London. To our surprise it made it to page 3 of the Metro (the next day was a monkey that looks like Einstein, so we are in good company) and was picked up by many of the national newspapers and science press. With all the hype surrounding the basic map we wanted to do something extra special for the mappinglondon blog, so Ollie has worked his web-mapping magic to create a fully interactive version in order that you can see the landmarks and streets the tweets correspond to. The map contains the geographic locations of about 3.3 million geo-located tweets (based on GPS) coloured by the language detected using Google’s translation tools.They cover the summer period so we can clearly see the many languages of the Olympic Park (a hotspot for tweeting). English tweets (grey) dominate (unsurprisingly) and they provide crisp outlines to roads and train lines as people tweet on the move. Towards the north, more Turkish tweets (blue) appear, Arabic tweets (green) are most common around Edgware Road and there are pockets of Russian tweets (pink) in parts of central London. The geography of the French tweets (red) is perhaps most surprising as they appear to exist in high density pockets around the centre and don’t stand out in South Kensington (an area with the Institut Francais, a French High School and the French Embassy). I really like the paint-speckled effect that the multilingual tweets of London have produced and it offers a further confirmation of the international nature of London’s population. There are more subtle things to look out for such as an almost perfect outline for the Olympic Stadium:

…and also the individual Heathrow terminals:

There are of course many extra ways we can visualise the data and it only represents the people that use twitter and have their locations switched on. This clearly doesn’t apply to the majority of Londoners so this is not a complete picture of London’s linguistic groups. Still, it makes for a nice looking map with lots to explore!


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