Alphabets survey results

Well, it’s interesting to see how far internationalisation has progressed since the last time I did one of these surveys (and indeed the time before).

Burmese, with more native speakers than Romanian or Dutch, is once again the poor relation, with only 22 out of 29 respondents able to see the characters ဘယ်လ်ဂျီယမ်နိုင်ငံ – I guess this reflects slow adoption of information technology there. It has placed bottom of every poll I have don on this subject.

Both Divehi (the language of the Maldives) and Aramaic managed only 23 for ބެލްޖިއަމް and ܒܠܓܝܩܐ respectively. Both of these are right-to-left scripts related to Arabic, spoken by rather small populations (340,000 for Divehi, maybe a million for Aramaic). Still, Aramaic is culturally important, and the Maldives are a pretty open society, so it’s a bit surprising that they don’t do better. Aramaic placed second last when I last did this.

The Ge’ez script, also historically a trailing contestant, used for Amharic and Tigrinya got 25 out of 29 for ቤልጅግ. It is used by about the same number of people as the Burmese script.

Cherokee got 26 out of 29 for ᏇᎵᏥᎥᎻ, with less than 15,000 native speakers (most of whom live in the USA).

Those with 28 out of 29 included several smaller South Asian languages, all of which have tens of millions of speakers – Punjabi (ਬੈਲਜੀਅਮ), Telugu (బెల్జియం), Kannada (ಬೆಲ್ಜಿಯಂ), Malayalam (ബെൽജിയം), Odia/Oriya (ବେଲଜିଅମ), Sinhalese (බෙල්ජියම), Khmer (បែលហ្សិក) and Tibetan (པེར་ཅིན།). Devanagari (बेल्जियम), Bengali (বেলজিয়াম), Tamil (பெல்ஜியம்), Thai (ประเทศเบลเยียม), Gujarati (બેલ્જિયમ) and Lao (ປະເທດແບນຊິກ) are all OK. Apart from Tamil, all of these are the most widely spoken language in a particular country, and Tamil is official in Singapore which must help. (Though what about Sinhalese and Khmer, then?)

Also with 28 out of 29, Cyrillic (Бельгия) and Georgian (ბელგია); but surprisingly Armenian (Բելգիա) got the full slate.

The others with full scores – Chinese (比利时), Latin (Bélgica), Arabic (بلجيكا), Japanese (ベルギー), Korean (벨기에), Greek (Βέλγιο) and Hebrew (בלגיה).

Full scores this time for Bengali (বেলজিয়াম), Gujarati (બેલ્જિયમ), Lao (ປະເທດແບນຊິກ), Armenian (Բելգիա), Chinese (比利时), Arabic (بلجيكا), Japanese (ベルギー), Korean (벨기에), and Hebrew (בלגיה), none of which had previously managed it. Also Sinhalese (බෙල්ජියම), Khmer (បែលហ្សិក) and Tibetan (པེར་ཅིན།) have climbed significantly up the league table since last time.

There were several South East Asian scripts where I wasn’t able to translate the name Belgium – S’Gaw Karen, Sundanese, Batak, Lontara, Balinese, and Yi. I am also missing Tifinagh (used for Berber) and Inuktitut. For Inuktitut, I did find an online dictionary that gave “Belgia” as the translation for Belgium; but the Inuktitut alphabet has no ‘b’ and no ‘e’, so I gave up.

Thanks for participating!