Chinese and informal English. These are the answers given in an article recently issued by The Economist. Why? Chinese is so concise that most messages never reach the micro-blogs’ limit of 140 symbols. Besides, even if Twitter is blocked in China, the local variant Sina Weibo has over 250m users. Informal English allows personal pronouns to be dropped, has no fiddly accents and enjoys a well-developed culture of abbreviations.

Japanese is concise too, and fans of haiku can tweet them with ease. Korean people often omit syllables, and Arabic messages leave out vowels to keep the tweets short. Romance languages tend to be more spun out. Spanish and Portuguese, the two most frequent European languages used on Twitter after English, use a lot of abbreviations to keep the length down. Portuguese speakers use abs for abraços (hugs) and bjs for beijos (kisses); in Spanish personal pronouns are always omitted.

Kevin Scannell, a professor at St Louis University, Missouri has set up a website to track the languages used on Twitter, which have been estimated to be 500. Twitter is in fact also helping minority languages to stay alive. For example, Basque and Gaelic speakers tweet to keep in touch with other speakers all over the world. Another interesting example is Gamilaraay, an indigenous Australian language with only three living speakers, which nevertheless is on Twitter because one of them is tweeting!