Variance in Communication by Country

The Country Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. 20% of the index is based on culture. 20% of a country’s culture score (4% of the overall Country Similarity Index score) is allocated for communication. Two major aspects of communication were included: language and writing system.


In many countries, the language people natively speak is the same as the official language. However there are also many countries where the language that people speak at home is different from the official language of the country. This category focuses on lingua francas in countries where they generally do not speak the official language at home. To qualify as a country’s common language, the language needed to satisfy at least two of the following five different criteria:

Official language
Official language is a big indicator that a language may be a lingua franca of a country, however there are many exceptions. For instance, although Romansh is one of the official languages of Switzerland, it is rarely used in government or education. Furthermore, less than 1% of the population speaks it.
Working language of the government
The language that the government uses to conduct business is always one of the lingua francas of a country. For example, although few people in Sudan can speak English, it is one of the government’s working languages, along with Arabic. Not all official languages are the working languages of governments.
Language of instruction in public education
Most of the time, the language of instruction in schools is one of the official languages. There are some exceptions however. In Ethiopia, the medium of instruction is English for high school and college. However, Aramaic is the official language and very few people can speak English. This is not the same as making students study a particular foreign language.
Lingua Franca commonly used between different ethnicities
In Namibia, Afrikaans is not the official language or taught in public schools. When Namibia became independent from South Africa, the government deliberately choose to become monolingual English speaking, but Afrikaans is still widely used between people of different ethnicities in the country.
Over 50% of the people in the country can speak the language
While some languages In Djibouti, Somali is not an official language, or taught in schools, however about 60% of the people there speak it.

In addition, the lingua franca can drastically change based on different regions within a country. For instance, in Canada, although French is one of the official languages, it is only truly the lingua franca in Quebec. Since Quebec is about 20% of the Canadian population, Canada is weighted as 80% English and 20% French in the lingua franca category. Another similar example is Cyprus, where Greek dominates but Turkish is mostly spoken in Northern Cyprus.

If the common language of a country is part of the same language family branch, it received half credit. For example, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, and Romanian are fairly similar languages since they are part of the same Romance language branch of the Indo-European family.

Wikipedia and eLiguistics were the main sources of the data:

Writing System

There are many writing systems that can be used to write languages. In some cases, a mutually intelligible language is written in a different script, based on the country. One example is Hindustani, which is written in the Devanagari script in India and the Nasta’liq script in Pakistan. Another example is Persian. It is written in the Nasta’liq script in Afghanistan, but in Cyrillic in Tajikistan, due to Russian influence. In addition, there are some languages which can be written in two different scripts, most notably Serbo-Croatian, which can use Latin or Cyrillic. Writing Systems were broken down into various categories based on script type, origin, and orthography.

Script Type
Four basic types of scripts include: Abjads, Alphabets, Abugidas, and Semanto-Phonetic scripts. Abjads only represent the consonants of words. Alphabets represent both consonants and vowels. Abugidas are consonant–vowel sequences that a written as a single character. Semanto-Phonetic scripts are characters that can represent ideas or sounds.
Script Origin
There are many different origins of writing systems and they are not always entirely clear. Greek, Latin, and Cyrllic were all derived from the Greek alphabet, so they look similar. Hebrew and Arabic have origins in the Aramaic alphabet. Northern Indian scripts come from Gupta script, while Southern Indian scripts mostly come from the Pallava script.
Basic Script
The most common writing system in the world is the Latin script. It is the only script used in the Western Hemisphere and Oceania. In addition, it is widely used in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Arabic script is mostly used in the Middle East. Russia, some Central Asian, and some Slavic countries use Cyrillic. Japanese is a special case, since its writing is a mix of Chinese characters and Hiragana syllabary native to Japan. There are no other scripts that are widely used by more than two countries.
Script Orthography
Although many languages use the Latin script, they often modify the alphabet to better fit the sounds in the language. For instance, German uses umlauts like ä, ö, and ü, Danish uses ø, å, and æ, and Polish uses ł, ś, and ż. Sometimes, completely different languages use essentially the same alphabet, like Swedish and Finnish or English and Indonesian. The Arabic script has also been modified to include vowels for Persian and Hindustani, creating the Nasta’liq script. Another interesting case is Chinese characters. They are used in China, Japan, and Taiwan, however China uses more simplified characters than Japan or Taiwan.

Wikipedia and Omniglot were the main sources of the data:

Obviously there is no one clear way to determine how similar one country is to another. How would you quantify how similar one country is to another?
Please leave any thoughts in the comments section.

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