According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. This new coronavirus is deadly and spreads easily between people, so a lot of countries have announced lockdown to stop the spread of it. Consequently, the interpretation and translation industry, like so many others, has been affected severely. Yet in the meantime, we have also witnessed a rising demand for remote interpretation and medical interpreters at hospitals, airports, and public organizations. If you want to know how interpretation can be conducted in the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit this article.
Since China reported the first cases in Wuhan, confirm cases and death cases have grown rapidly not only in China but across countries and languages. In this article, we will show the progression of COVID-19 using a chart type called bar chart race. We will explore how total infections and total deaths increased over time. More interestingly, you can see the differences not only by country but by the language spoken by the patients!
1. Sources & notes
- Our main data sources are the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)’s website for daily COVID-19 infections and deaths, and the United Nations’ website for language proportions for each country. For countries without UN data, we used data for the language proportions from the World Data website. Data on language families are taken from the Ethnologue website.
- For most countries, one person is assumed to speak only one language. For a few countries such as Algeria and Morocco, the sources had “Arabic and French” as a language. In such cases, we assumed that proportion of the population spoke both languages.
- For some countries, the language proportions do not add up to 100%. The remaining is classified as others.
- Since we cleaned and simplified the data, the number of infections and deaths summed up for all languages are slightly different from the number of infections and deaths reported on the ECDC website.
2. Coronavirus’s spread by country
From the country perspective, the coronavirus first started in China and soon spread to neighboring countries in Asia. The Diamond Princess cruise ship and Korea made headlines briefly, before Italy, Iran and Spain joined the fray in March. By April, however, the United States has surpassed Italy as the world’s deadliest coronavirus country, having twice the number of infections as the second most infected country (Spain). Europe was severely affected as around 10 European countries were in the top 20 for both numbers of infections and deaths. When summer approaches, Brazil, Russia, and India slowly made their way towards the top of the list, followed by Latin American countries such as Mexico, Peru, and Chile. The list stabilized during the fall but as winter approaches, the positions on the charts will change drastically as coronavirus cases are expected to surge in cold countries.
3. Coronavirus’s spread by language
From the language perspective, Chinese topped the list at the start, followed by a long list of local dialects in China. That makes sense since China is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country. Korean, Italian, and Persian soon rose, mirroring the trend in the country charts. English slowly overtook them one by one and gained the number-one spot in the total infections table by March, and in the total deaths table by April. Chinese dropped quickly, as Portuguese (representing Brazil) and Russian joined the leaders. Hindi (representing India) also became prominent, while Spanish (representing Spain and Latin American countries) came as high as the second place by August. The list remained quite stable after that.
The language perspective becomes more interesting when we take into consideration the proportions of the world’s population who speak each language. In the chart below, you can see that Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world with 17%. However, Chinese is barely in the top 20 at the end of the bar chart race. On the other hand, English accounts for only 4% of the world’s population first-language speakers, yet they are leading both bar chart races and remain far ahead of the number-two position.
Another interesting fact is that most of the top languages in the bar chart race belong to the Indo-European languages, a family of languages widely spoken in the Americas, Europe, areas of European settlement as well as Western and Southern Asia. In this family, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish were expanded across continents through colonialism in the modern period. The proportion above is expected, since Indo-European languages account for more than 45% of all world languages as seen in the chart below.
With this article, Freelensia hopes to provide you an insightful illustration of the COVID-19 pandemic cases by country as well as cases by language. If you wish to see the latest coronavirus statistics online, please visit the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard. To keep yourself and people around you safe from this pandemic, please follow the WHO’s Advice for the Public.