A look at non-English graffiti

The most common non-English languages found in Regenstein graffiti are Arabic (12), French (10), Chinese (9), Spanish (8), and Latin (6). Three of those five fall under the category of “less-commonly taught languages”. This got me thinking: clearly the amount of graffiti in a language isn’t proportional to how many students study it. (Various traits, ranging from handwriting to grammatical mistakes, suggest that most of the non-English graffiti is written by students of the language rather than native speakers.)

I turned to the enrollment data for the beginning level of each language, and to compensate for any significant fluctuation* I averaged the data from the last three years– the same amount of time I’ve been collecting graffiti.

Taking the number of pieces of graffiti in each language, and dividing it by the average elementary enrollment gets you the following results:

What’s not included here is Armenian– off the charts at 2 pieces of graffiti with an average elementary enrollment of 1. Once you eliminate that outlier, you’ve got BCS (Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian) at .6, Korean at .31, Georgian at .25, and Arabic and Turkish tied at .18.

Also, from the “random observations on non-English graffiti” department, there’s zero pieces of graffiti written in German, and all but one of the pieces of Italian graffiti are “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’entrate.” (Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.)

Make of all this what you will.

* For the most part, the enrollment numbers are remarkably consistent from year to year. Arabic was more volatile, dropping to 55 in 2009 after being in the 70′s since 2005, and the 60′s since 2003. Japanese also took a hit in 2009, falling to 45 instead of the upper 50′s it had enjoyed the previous two years.

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