I was interested to see the reaction to “Don’t Blame Benny” a few days ago, both from the author of Loving Language, Richard Benton, and from the subject of the original post, Benny Lewis, via twitter. The debate of which it is a tiny part is still going on and I think it’s well worth a look if you are in the mood for a new perspective on languages. The latest post is here, but you can track back to earlier instalments.
I’m not planning to say anything more on the subject because I feel like I’ve had my say already. I find myself drawn to his core idea of learning languages spoken widely in your own community (see the second video on the about page for a good intro) despite already-expressed reservations about some of the specific arguments advanced in support of it.
Anyway, in case you’re interested, here’s a map that did the rounds a year or two back of the languages most spoken in my home town of London, other than English of course. I live in LB Richmond where the second language is Polish. To be honest, I wouldn’t have guessed this as it’s so diverse around here that there isn’t one dominant group. Just thinking of children in my daughter’s class at primary school and their parents (maybe 40 kids in total over the years): Poland, Portugal, Brazil, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, America, Canada, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Jamaica, Iceland, um…. Oh Lordy, I’m sure I’m forgetting a few… she shared a class with three times as many children with Portuguese language ties as Polish, for what it’s worth.
There’s a breakdown of the numbers on randomlylondon, which I basically agree with: that it’s surprising to see Portuguese Spanish and French as dominant languages in some boroughs, and interesting that if Southwark were a bit bigger, it and Lambeth would look like a tiny map of the Iberian Peninsula. Portuguese around Streatham, Clapham, Vauxhall sounds about right though, so if you want to know where to get a decent cup of coffee or a custard tart, now you know.
What surprised me most is that Greenwich seems to be Little Kathmandu! If you’d asked me to guess I would have said that you’d need to move the entire population of Nepal to London to make an appreciable dent in the demographics, but… well, that’s what the numbers say, apparently. 26 million people live in Nepal, 50,000 in the UK and 19,000 in London. I should have been more surprised by the fact that Lithuania (population less than 3 million) seems to have so many of its citizens based out in the Essex fringes.