I received your excellent original QI dvd game for Christmas and; while enjoying it immensely, I noticed that the answer to one of the questions, namely "what is the 3rd most common language?" was given as Spanish. Now according to a book I have in front of me called "The Meaning of Tingo" by Adam Jacot de Boinod who it says in the foreword was a researcher on the tv programme QI, the answer should be Hindi...
An Elf replies:
Adam Jacot de Boinod was indeed a researcher on the first series of QI. In fact, The Meaning of Tingo was inspired by a section of the original QI Database and by work he did on the Albanian language for the programme.
The question of how many people 'speak' any of the world's languages is not as easy to answer as you might think. To what degree of competency do they speak it, for a start? Are they native speakers? Is it their (fluent) second language? Or do they merely dabble in it?
If the latter, I would guess there's a very good case for English (rather than the usual answer, Chinese) being the world's most commonly spoken language, since surely almost everyone in the world knows a few words in English such as 'OK', 'Hello' and 'Coca-Cola' (from movies and advertising & marketing etc), but almost no one except the Chinese knows any Chinese words at all. English in some form, incidentally, is spoken in well over half the countries of the world.
It's an interesting sub-question - what is the most widely-spoken (or widely-known) word in the world?
But, to the point. Based on numerous academic sources we at QI Central think the best general compromise answer for the world's third commonest language is Spanish, and we stand by the statement in our DVD.
The next best candidate for the world's third commonest language is English, and we also like the left-field suggestion offered by WikiAnswers Sign Language. (We did some research on this for Deafness in the QI 'D' Series and we think there's a good case to answer there).
Hindustani or Hindi, by comparison, is of course one of the world's major languages - certainly up there in the top ten in anybody's list, but, though we can find sources that claim it as the 2nd (3 sources), 4th (2 sources), 5th (2 sources) and 6th (1 source) most commonly spoken language, we cannot find one single example which cites Hindi as the world's third most common language.
That's not to say that one of our eagle-eyed viewers will not be able to find one...
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