The world is getting smaller. Not physically (at least, we hope not), but through our ability to quickly reach out and communicate with others around the globe. While 500 years ago it likely seemed improbable to most, today it takes mere seconds to connect someone in the United States to a person as far away as China thanks to the internet.
But how we communicate is still important because there isn’t one universal language. And that’s a good thing. Different languages mean different cultures, different ways of thinking, different markets, and different ways to relate to one another.
Nowhere do we see that more than online. Here are the top languages used on the internet in recent years:
No surprise here! Along with being the most spoken language, English is also the most used language on the internet. As of 2020, English accounted for 25.9% of the world’s internet users.
From 2010 to 2020, English gained the most speakers worldwide by far. That trend is expected to continue due to the language’s use by many governments and businesses, as well as the political stability of such countries as the United States.
“Tallying the number of speakers of the world’s languages is an increasingly complex task, particularly with the push in many countries to teach English in their public schools. ” – Internet World Stats
Chinese is the second-most spoken language in the world, and it also has the second-most number of internet users worldwide at 19.4%.
Unlike English, Chinese is mostly spoken in one area: Asia. So, though China has the largest population on Earth, Mandarin Chinese is unlikely to take the top spot from English anytime soon. Nonetheless, Chinese is an important language on the web and could soon be nearing 1 billion internet users.
“The number of people ages 5 and older who speak Arabic at home has grown by 29% between 2010 and 2014 to 1.1 million, making it the seventh most commonly spoken non-English language in the U.S.”
“We work with companies and individuals in the legal, entertainment, market research, police, government, radio, church, and other fields to make their content easily accessible to all.”
In 1970, the U.S. Hispanic population was 9.6 million. In 2020, that number reached 62.1 million… and it could double in the decades to come. In some U.S. states, Hispanics make up now or will soon make up a larger percentage of the population than non-Hispanic Whites, such as in California where Hispanics accounted for 39% of the state’s population in 2020.
This is just one example of the growth of the Spanish language and why it likely grew online from 2000 to 2021 by 1,511.0%.
Arabic is the fastest-growing language in terms of internet users on this list, with a whopping 9,348% increase from 2000. A possible reason for this increase is the ability for more people to access the internet in the Middle East now than were able to 20 years ago. Immigration is also fueling the rise of the language in other areas, such as in the European Union in 2020 where the most largest amount of asylum seekers came from Syria and Afghanistan.
5. The Rest of the Best
Portuguese, Indonesian, French, Japanese, Russian, and German round out the rest of the top 10 most used languages online. This coincides with population increases in places like Brazil, Indonesia, and Western Africa.
Why Translation Is Needed
As the numbers show, by only having your content in one language, you’re missing a huge amount of people. For example, if you work for a business that is only tweeting in English but are also targeting consumers in Spain, you’re unlikely to reach those people without Spanish-language interaction.
Translation and localization is used to reach that targeted audience. So make sure to research what markets would be beneficial for you to target, look at what materials or content would best bring in those people, and then translate and localize your materials to ultimately reach those markets.
Also, make sure you have a trusted translation partner who can provide high-quality services, because this an area where mistakes can be costly by financially and reputation-wise.