Language in Online Business: What Does the Future Hold

by | Mar 9, 2018

English is one of the most valuable languages in the world. In fact, it’s
probably the most valuable. It’s the official language of the NATO, the UN,
and the EU. It’s also the most widely used language within the online

Statistics tell us that over a billion people speak it right now and this
is only expected to double by 2020.

Now, English isn’t spoken in every country or culture across the globe.
However, it is still one of the most beneficial languages with regard to
international trade and business. In fact, experts predict that its
importance within industries such as tourism and travel is only likely to

The Other Side

But, here’s the problem – people who do not speak English have a hard time
dealing with websites that don’t use any other language other than English.
This is a growing problem.

According to current statistics, the usage of English on the web has
declined to about 45% since the year 2000. That’s a major decline compared
to the 90s when 80% of the internet spoke English.

Research tells us that about 72% of the online consumers prefer to purchase
from sites that communicate in their respective mother tongues and about
56% attach more importance to information that is presented in their own

As you can see, it’s not a far-fetched idea that English will soon lose the
“universal appeal” that it once had. Online purchases are growing and as
this happens, other languages will start to dominate the online landscape.
As of now, Spanish and Mandarin are being touted as the two big languages
that will steal the crown from English.

The shift in languages is further being fueled by events such as the
ever-increasing population of mobile users and even political situations
such as the British EU referendum.

India is Going Mobile

India is currently the world’s largest mobile market and it doesn’t seem to
be stopping anytime soon. Projections tell us that the market is bound to
grow by 7.3% every year. Increased mobile adoption is the reasons behind
this growth.

In 2015, only 22% of the Indian population had access to the internet. By
2020, the country will be the world’s third-largest smartphone market with
750 million owners.

In other words, the potential for business in India is tremendous and the
challenge lies in developing localization strategies that can tap into the
country’s linguistic landscape.

Unlike most other countries, India doesn’t speak a single language. It’s
home to 22 different languages. Yup, 22 languages spoken by a single
country. So, finding a way to break this barrier should be a priority for
global businesses.

China – The Dragon

Another diverse country that businesses need to figure out is China. The
Asian economic powerhouse is home to over a billion people. Though a good
number of them can speak English, the dominant language here is still
Mandarin, which is just one of 7 dialects.

China has achieved tremendous growth in the last decade or so and it is
gradually evolving into a major global player. It is already the preferred
trading partner in South East Asia. So, as business gets conducted in
renminbi more often, it’s becoming clear that Mandarin will have a far
greater role to play than English.

Spanish Delight

Right after Mandarin, Spanish is the language that’s taking over the globe.
The US, which is predominantly an English-speaking nation, is home to 41
million native Spanish speakers. By 2050, that number is projected to grow
to 138 million.

The Future

So, it’s clear that English, though not down and out, is losing its hold.
As people get more connected, the need to be understood becomes greater.
Businesses will have to come to terms with this reality and position
themselves appropriately. In this case, it means going multilingual.