25 November 2008

United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and Italy in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian (Part 1)

Today I faced off the five most populous countries of the European Union but not against each other. Instead, I investigated the Google-popularity of their names in the five main languages. Note that I kept the order of the languages the same for each country: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian. Let's start with the United Kingdom:

As expected, the English version of the name was by far the most common but was also diminishing in volume at a rapid and sustained pace. Spanish came in second; Italian, French and German barely registered in comparison—remember that the numbers on these Google Insights for Search graphs are relative, not absolute, i.e., not reflecting real volume numbers but only how the different search terms differ in search volume. Next, France:

We had two complications here: the English and French versions of the name were identical and so were the Spanish and Italian ones. In both cases, I kept the two languages on the graph even though only one of the trend lines was visible, that line being the sum total of the two languages' search volume. That way, the language color codes didn't change from graph to graph. Anyway, France was king and it didn't matter whether the French or the English version was what drove this line because the other three languages were so small in volume that they would have been behind even if it were possible to split up the English and French searches. The Tour de France cycling extravaganza produced the annual summer peak (see also my August 9, 2008 post). How about Germany?

This time, I had solid evidence for the native tongue normally being on top: Deutschland bested Germany. Both were decreasing through time. The one time English won out was in June 2006 when even Italian almost caught up with German. The reason: the World Cup soccer took place in Germany that year, mostly in June. The smaller uptick later on was Euro 2008, the European soccer championship. Do we need anymore proof that soccer is king in Germany? :-) This in contrast to France where cycling is king (see above). Next, Spain:

The pattern continued: the native language bested English and both declined through time. Italians had little affinity with Spain. Finally, I analyzed Italy:

One more time we had an "identical twin": Italia is both the Italian and the Spanish name for the country. Of course then, Italian + Spanish bested English. Just like with Spain, there was at least some search volume from the other languages too: I wonder if this might be due to both countries being favorite tourist destinations?

Update: Don't forget to read part 2.

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