Last Updated on September 17, 2020
A Forbes headline that reads “why speaking English may spread more coronavirus than other languages” is fake news, National File has assessed.
The article, published last week, claims that “new research suggests that English speakers… [may be] more likely to spread” coronavirus than by speakers of other languages. The article references a study published in Medical Hypotheses in June, that examined the affect of aspirated consonants in language on coronavirus spread.
Aspirated consonants, such as p, t, and k in English, involve a plosive release of air from the mouth when creating them, along with potentially more spit, which hypothetically could create a link between certain languages and the spread of the coronavirus.
A more accurate headline from Forbes, therefore, may have been “study claims potential link between language speaking and coronavirus spread,” or something along those lines. The English language was not specified within the study, although it was given as an example in the introductory paragraph.
There is nothing within the study itself that suggests English is more likely to spread coronavirus than other languages with aspirated consonants, and it is fair to say that the Forbes headline amounts to totally fake news.
In fact, the study “showed no significant differences in cases of infected individuals between the languages with aspiration and the languages without aspiration,” something Forbes even snarkily acknowledges further down in the article. “Technically these numbers did not achieve statistical significance, but the observation is interesting nonetheless,” it reads.
The study did note that “in countries in which the dominant language has aspirated consonants there were more cases of individuals infected by COVID-19 in comparison to countries in which the dominant language does not have aspirated consonants.”
However, as anyone who has studied data correctly knows, correlation does not imply causation. While worth further research, there could be many other factors causing this link, which is why this study simply posits a hypothesis, and one that definitely does not single out the English language.
National File encourages our readers to read the study in full, which you can do here.