It’s no secret that your online presence strengthens your brand and increases your chances of selling in any part of the world. Thanks to the internet, there’s no limit in reaching new audiences and engaging with people from different time zones and cultures. But what are the most popular languages for communicating online?
There are many in play. The internet alone can’t overcome language barriers. English is the official language online and, is one of the most popular languages in the world.
Yet, not everyone speaks English. Three in four internet users from South America, Europe, and Asia prefer buying products in their native languages. And, for more than half of them, having information in their local language is more important than price, when buying.
Why is Translation Essential for Business?
Translation and localization place you closer to your public, increase conversion rates and boost revenues. They help to make your brand popular among locals and give you a better fighting chance against regional competitors.
From product descriptions to your website and marketing messages, you need to express everything in the local language where you do business.
Internet World Stats lists the top ten most popular languages on the internet. Besides English, the next most used languages online are Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Indonesian, Japanese, Russian, French, German and Hindi.
Choosing the right languages for translation depends on the business opportunities you’re looking for. Some languages give you access to numerous users, while others allow you to engage with fewer people, but with potentially higher purchasing power.
Now, let’s have a look at the most popular languages for business translation.
- Simplified Chinese
It’s the official written language in China, while Mandarin is the spoken dialect. So, for all your written content, you need to translate into Simplified Chinese. When you need an interpreter, you should be looking for a Mandarin specialist.
Almost one-fifth of internet users speak Chinese, making it one of the most popular languages for translation online. In fact, China is the second largest economy in the world, which makes Chinese a useful language for creating new business opportunities.
It’s not just the 770 million internet users. China will exceed $1 trillion in e-commerce next year and will become the largest e-commerce market in the world. But, as most Chinese people don’t speak English, you’d better teach your website the local language well, if you want to enter this huge market.
It’s the second most spoken language in the world, after Chinese, and the next most popular language for translation.
Translating into Spanish gives you the chance to reach over 500 million people, in countries from Europe and Latin America. To get the most out of your translation, you must localize for each country you’re planning to expand to, as speech and vocabulary vary from region to region and country to country.
Spanish-speaking countries offer a wide range of business opportunities, especially in terms of economic growth. Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and Peru are all on the list of the top 50 countries in the world with the highest GDPs.
Today, around 10 percent of all web content is in Spanish. This number will grow as the purchasing power of people in Spanish-speaking countries becomes higher. Spanish is also said to be one of the easiest languages to learn, which explains why it’s one of the most popular languages of all.
Arabic is the seventh most popular language online, with a growing number of internet users. Almost 46 million people search the internet in the Arabic language only. Even Google has developed domains and integrated language options for 15 Arabic countries.
280 million people speak Arabic in 28 countries. Ignoring this language means fewer chances to conquer a market that will reach $20 billion in e-commerce by 2020.
The middle east is a high growth region, with a huge potential for businesses. So invest in Arabic content now to gain a competitive edge while less than two percent of the written content on the internet is in Arabic.
This language remains less popular for translation because of its character. According to Common Sense Advisory, Arabic regional versions occupy an important role in digital marketing, making translation and localization difficult and more expensive than other languages.
- Portuguese (Brazilian)
The 2016 Olympic Games shifted attention to Brazil, a country with high economic potential and one of the most popular languages. Despite three years of recession and high rates of unemployment, Brazil’s economy is finally showing signs of recovery.
Brazil is the largest internet market in Latin America, with 140 million internet users. By 2021, this country will reach an internet penetration rate of 61 percent. Businesses that invest in localization for this country will reach even higher audiences in the following years.
Another advantage of this local market comprises the country’s young population. More than half of Brazilians are under 30, which means more people in the workforce, with the possibility of higher income and a growing middle class.
- Indonesian (Malay)
When thinking about the most popular languages, you probably didn’t consider Indonesian, which is a version of Malay and the official language of Indonesia. Even if the local population speaks over 700 living languages, Indonesian is the only language recognized officially, and used in administration, commerce, and media.
Indonesia is an attractive market for digital marketers, with over 150 million internet users. And Indonesians are important internet consumers, with a passion for social media, especially YouTube and Facebook, which adds importance to Malay as one of the most popular languages.
Content marketing in Indonesia offers important growth opportunities, so Indonesian has a great chance of becoming even more popular among languages for translation. The e-commerce market in Indonesia reached $5.6 billion in 2016.
With all eyes on China, businesses often forget about localizing for Japan, but Japanese still makes the list of the most popular languages. If you plan to expand in Asia, you can’t miss this market. Japan registered 77 million digital buyers in 2015 and retail e-commerce sales are steadily growing.
Between Japan’s advantages in terms of digital marketing, consider that over 90 percent of this country’s population is urban. They like shopping with their smartphones and are fond of Western products. In terms of ROI, translating into Japanese is one of the most popular languages and most profitable.
Also, 99 percent of Japanese people don’t speak English. So, if you want to engage with a Japanese audience, you need localization.
This language has several writing systems and complex grammar, which results in higher costs because Japanese is hard to translate into. But the 109 million Japanese users online makes this one of most popular languages worth the effort.
The next on the list of most popular languages is an official language in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. But translating into Russian opens your business up to people from more than these four countries as Russian is in high demand in Eastern Europe. So, you’ll also reach audiences in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Bulgaria, Finland, and Georgia.
About 109 million internet users speak Russian. Many of them have a basic knowledge of English. In Russia alone, 30 million people shop online and e-commerce is thriving.
For now, Russians prefer shopping from local online stores, and Chinese sites are gaining in popularity. However, the Russian online market remains an opportunity for foreigners, especially if they sell footwear, smartphones, tablets, computers, household appliances, electronic devices, goods for children, cosmetics, perfumes, and furniture.
One of the most popular languages for translation, French is an official language in countries with strong economies. If your website speaks French, you can reach audiences in France, parts of Canada, Monaco, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and parts of the Caribbean.
All these French-speaking countries have seen a consistent growth in the e-commerce local markets. 36 million French internet users shop online, spending an average $2,100 annually.
French-speaking countries also include African countries with growing economies: Rwanda (the second easiest country in Africa to do business), Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to name a few.
With less than 100 millions speakers online, German still counts as one of the most popular languages on the internet. W3Techs registers 5.6 percent of the most visited websites are in German.
Countries with important economies have German as an official language: Germany (the largest economy in the EU), Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Belgium. The German e-commerce market has the fastest growth in Europe, expected to pass $65 billion in 2017.
Amazon and the local giant, Otto divide the German online market. Small businesses have little chances of making a difference. So, in this context, not having your website localized into German, one of the most popular languages, means not selling at all.
India is listed among the world’s largest gem and diamond polishing as well as jewelry manufacturing center. Hindi is the fourth most-spoken language in the world. Hindi is spoken by 260 million native speakers.
Hindi has may Dialects, such as Marwari, Braj, Bundeli, Kanauji, Urdu, Chattisgarhi, Bagheli, Avadhi, Bhojpuri and so on.
Most Popular Languages for Translation
The internet penetration rate in emerging countries is growing faster than ever. Such a dynamic environment brings in changes. So, before deciding on these ten most popular languages for translation, think about the future.
Some trends place other languages on top in the following years. Hindi and Korean (in Asia), Finnish and Danish (in Europe) will become popular languages online, as the local online markets are growing and the most popular languages will change. So, watch this space!