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The Best Languages to Target for International Marketing

  |   CultureShocks Blog

Having a marketing campaign translated into different languages is a great way to reach audiences who may not be well versed with the primary language of your campaign. However, choosing the right languages to translate your campaign into can be quite challenging, especially considering there are so many options out there. That’s why we’ve compiled a handy list of the top 10 languages to translate your campaign into, with the facts and figures on why these languages are your best bet:


1. Spanish


Around 427 million people across 31 countries speak Spanish, making it the second most widely spoken language worldwide! This isn’t surprising, considering that Spanish is the second most popular language in Europe and the fourth in the world. In the United States alone, there are already 36 million Spanish speakers. The Hispanic population in the US is projected to double by 2050, meaning that Hispanic people will make up 30% of the population in America. As a language for websites, Spanish makes up about 4.9% of online content. Ultimately, in terms of native speakers around the globe, Spanish precedes English too, making it a crucial language to translate your campaign into!


2. English


English is spoken in 106 countries, making it a very widespread language. There are 339 million English speakers, and 27% of Internet users prefer English. English is the most used language on the Internet by far, dominating with more than half (53.6%) of content languages for websites in English, followed by Russian (6.4%), German (5.6%) and Japanese (5.1%). E-commerce sales in 2015 were booming in English speaking countries with $349.06bn in the US, $93.8bn in the UK and $28.7bn in Canada.


3. Chinese


There are a total of 1.3 billion Chinese speakers in the world with Chinese spoken in about 35 countries, making it the most widely spoken language worldwide. It has a 2% usage of content language for websites, with about 674 million Internet users in China. The number of Chinese Internet users far outweighs Hindi speaking users (375 million), Spanish speaking Internet users (222 million) and Portuguese speaking users (117 million).  In 2015, China and the US were by far the world’s leading e-commerce markets with sales of $562bn and $349bn respectively, followed by the UK ($93bn), Japan ($79bn) and Germany ($73bn). China’s growth over the next five years will widen the gap between the two countries and will exceed $1 trillion in retail e-commerce sales by 2018. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the country’s economy is 7 times larger today than it was 15 years ago. Chinese businesses are spreading all over the globe, and thus the spread of Chinese as a language is also far reaching. With its steadily growing economy, China is definitely not a country to be ignored.


4. Arabic


Arabic is spoken in 58 countries, by a total of 267 million people, making it the fourth most spoken language worldwide. Egypt and Iran make up the majority of Arabic users on the Internet, with 95.1 million users from these two countries alone. The Middle East and Africa are among the fastest growing regions in terms of Internet news, and 0.8% of the usage of content for websites is Arabic. As Gulf economies bring down their trade and investment barriers, the Middle East seems to be a promising destination for economic growth. In a report from the British Council, which lists the top 10 languages of the future, Arabic ranks as the second most important language of the future.


5. French


With a total of 75.8 million speakers in 53 countries, French is a very popular language today. In fact, it is estimated that around 100–200 million people also speak French as a second language. 4.1% of content on the Internet is French, and this number is increasing. In countries like Algeria, Morocco, Vietnam and Cambodia, where there is a low proficiency in English, French is particularly useful as a lingua franca.


A study by investment bank Natixis even suggests that, by 2050, French could be the most-spoken language in the world, ahead of English and even Mandarin.


6. German


German is spoken in 26 countries with a total of 76.9 million speakers and it’s the third most used language online. Among European countries, Germany has a very promising future. It is the largest single export market for British goods apart from the United States, and is Europe’s largest economy with a GDP of more than $3.9bn.


7. Portuguese


Even though Portuguese is spoken in only 12 countries, a very large number of people – 206 million – speak it fluently. Portuguese is 2.6% of content language for websites. In Brazil itself, there are at least 182 million Portuguese speakers. In the African continent, 13.7 million people speak Portuguese, and in Europe too, Portuguese speakers are widespread (and not just in Portugal). Portuguese is also gaining popularity in Asia due to the region’s great diplomatic and economic relations with Portugal and Lusophone countries. According to an estimate by UNESCO, Portuguese and Spanish are the most rapidly growing European languages after English.


8. Russian


Russian is spoken in 17 countries, with 103 million Internet users in Russia alone, not to mention the millions more in post-Soviet states where Russian is still widely spoken. It’s the second most used language online, displacing German. Russia is also famous for its great engineering minds and brilliant IT community, and is definitely growing in terms of global business reach and influence.


9. Japanese


Japanese is only spoken commonly in 2 countries, but the sheer numbers of people who speak it – 128 million – make it a language that should be considered for advertising campaigns. There are 114 million Internet users in Japan, having e-commerce sales in 2015 of $79.33bn; this is not surprising, considering that Japan is one of the most technologically advanced and connected nations in the world.


10. Hindi


Similar to Japanese, Hindi is only spoken commonly in 4 countries. However, due to the vast and steadily growing population, there are more than 260 million Hindi speakers worldwide. India is the second most populous country in the world and as a growing economic power and part of the BRICS countries, India is a great target market for any marketing campaign.


The list above should give a brief overview on which markets are experiencing tremendous growth, and which languages will benefit your campaign should you consider tapping into these markets. Remember that your own market research should come first, and your target audience should heavily influence what markets you look to break into. If you’re interested in effectively translating your marketing campaign and adapting your message to different markets, contact Textappeal, the leaders in marketing translation and transcreation.

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