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Fascinating map shows New York's "hyperdiverse" languages

Adam Goldman

How many languages do you speak? My answer is two: English and serviceable Spanish. So really more like 1.7, but let's round up. Whatever your answer is, you definitely speak less languages than New York City, a fact made abundantly clear by a new map from the Endangered Language Alliance. The Alliance estimates that the metro area is the most linguistically diverse urban center in the history of the world, home to about 800 languages. That's a lot of ways to hail a cab!

The ELA has compiled an impressive new map detailing where many of these languages are spoken all over NYC. The map, which is available here as a zoomable and infinitely explorable PDF, and also available as a physical object for a $40 donation, indicates where in the city these languages have been catalogued, sometimes through conversations with just a single speaker of the dialect in question. In total, 40% of the languages on the map are from Asia, 27% from Africa, 18% from Europe, 14% from the Americas, with the rest representing Oceania and the Pacific. 

The Endangered Language Alliance is committed to shedding light on, well, endangered languages: those that are at risk of dying out or only exist in small communities. Many of the languages on the map will be familiar to you, but a lot of them won't. It's a great peek into just how spectacularly diverse ("hyperdiverse," as the ELA calls it) a place New York really is. Check out the map when you have some free time; it's educational and fun. But be warned, you might just spend an hour poking around and zooming in on different neighborhoods to find out which languages they speak. Time well spent!

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