Language in Online Business: What Does the Future Hold

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 landscape.

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 grow.

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 language.

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.

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