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Can English continue to be a dominant global language?

No other language has held sway the way English has globally. Can it maintain its dominance as the most important language for business? 

It’s estimated that more than 1.75 billion people around the world speak English, that’s a quarter of the world’s population. Around 400 million people speak English as their first language, with more than a billion knowing it as their secondary tongue; it’s also the official language in at least 59 countries and the lingua franca of many more. While English is not the most spoken language around the world, English is the language of business, diplomacy, science and much more. If we were to rate English on a financial level, its GDP would massively overshadow other languages. Yet English is just one of 7000+ languages spoken globally, so how did it become the most important global language, and will it continue to hold its business and cultural dominance?

translation and localization

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels – The English language has shaped how we do global business but will its dominance remain?

A brief history of the English language

Map – Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels – Caption – “English has its roots in the nomads that used to roam the southeastern European plains some 5000 years ago.”

Belonging to the Indo-European family of languages, English is a West Germanic language that has its roots in the nomads that used to roam the southeastern European plains some 5000 years ago. As migrations happened in the 5th and 6th centuries, Old English began to take form. Words were taken from French during the Norman conquests of 1066, and in the 12th century, English transformed from Old to Middle English as Greek and Latin words began to enter and influence the language. In the 1500s, English began transforming the modern English we recognise and use today. Between trade, conquest, religion, and British colonialism, English spread worldwide. 

Fun fact:

The closest modern relative to the English language is Frisian. It is 80% lexically similar to English and is a language still spoken in parts of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, though by only around 450,000 people.

English’s success is a result of money, status, and politics, as well as the ease with which it borrows words from other languages and its flexibility in adapting to changes in the world and technology. Economic and technological development has played a major role in English dominance. The US still leads economically and has been one of the most dominating modern cultures, which was heavily influential to English dominance during the birth of the internet. The result of this history and influence has led other countries to place a high value on English speakers, in that those that can speak and use English have a higher chance of getting ahead or entering the global elite, thus furthering English’s influence and dominance in business and more. For example, China has the most speakers of English as a second language than any other country. 

While English generally remains the international business language, global business is changing, and its dominance is starting to waver as more and more companies aim to enter other markets and expand using a localized marketing and advertising transcreation strategy for their business.

How technology has changed the prevalence of English

advertising transcreation

Photo by www_slon_pics on Pixabay – eCommerce business and other global markets are changing English’s prevalence in business.

When the internet started in 1998, there were around 70 million internet users, with English speakers accounting for over 80% of them. However, since then, there has been a steady decline in the percentage of web pages in English. In 1998, 75% of the internet was in English, whereas now it’s only around 25.9%. Today Simplified Chinese alone accounts for 19.4% of web content, just shy of English, which shows the growing trend of companies expanding into different global markets with the use of technology and the necessary use of translation and localization for websites, eCommerce translation services, eLearning platforms, and more. 

Further studies have also found that more than half of consumers would pay more for a product if it were presented to them on a platform in their native language. This shift away from English has even been noted by The British Council as far back as 2006, when it published a report that stated that even though English is becoming more widely spoken, its dominance as a language appears to be fading. This shift is happening for a variety of reasons. 

Related: The Top 9 Emerging Languages for Business

Countries with large populations now have more access to technology than they did in the past, and many of these same countries also have a growing number of middle-class consumers that are eager to spend money. With 72.1% of consumers spending most of their time on web pages in their native language, the demand for localization and translation services and a shift away from English has increased. Other factors, such as continued globalization in general, changes in the economy, and other creative alternatives, such as emojis, may also influence the prevalence of the English language in business and online.

English’s future as a global language

high quality translation services

Photo from Pixabay– Other languages are starting to make their way into mainstream business and culture.

It’s estimated that 50-90% of the world’s languages will be extinct in the next century. This is because linguists believe that with more people moving around and native languages not being passed on to younger generations, there will be a drop in the overall number of global languages.

A Dutch sociologist named Abram de Swaan classifies languages into four categories. The peripheral language category includes 98% of the world’s languages but is spoken by less than 10% of humanity. The national or central category includes languages that have a territory to call their own and are written and taught in schools. Next, in the category of super-central languages are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swahili, as each host around 100 million speakers or more and are the most commonly spoken second languages worldwide. At the top is the ‘hypocentral’ language. It is the language that holds the whole language system together, and that crown is held by none other than English. Japanese novelist Minae Mizumura, who has written on language, similarly described English as a “universal language” and that this status is held not by the number of native speakers of the language but rather by the greatest number of non-native speakers.

With that said, it seems likely that English will continue to hold its super-power status for the time being; however, it will also have to continue to make way for other super-central languages that are growing within political and economic spheres. For example, China’s presence outside of Asia continues to grow. As other countries and populations continue to gain traction in online consumer markets, businesses will need to adapt and recognise that business is no longer an English-only affair.

If you’re ready to start localizing your business or need high-quality translation services, Into23 can help you transform your business for any local market. Specializing in Asian languages, Into23 offers English to Chinese translation services and more, as well as website localizationtranslation and localization marketing strategies to suit your business needs. Contact us today for a free quote!

The Top 9 Emerging Languages for Business

Looking to enter different global markets? Pay attention to these languages.

With more than 6000 languages worldwide how do you decide which ones to use for your business platforms? The belief that English is the language of business isn’t valid anymore with the increase and demand for online shopping, eLearning platforms, and eCommerce services like Shopify.

Historically, English has been the international business language but the emergence and reliance on the internet has completely altered the way we do business. In the mid-1990s, around 70 million people used the internet with Native English speakers making up for 80% of these users. However, today there is a whopping 4.6 billion internet users worldwide but English users make up for just 25.9% of that number.

Global internet usage

Overview of global Internet use

If your business aims to enter the international market you need to speak to customers in their own language, meaning that integrating translation and localization into your business platforms is crucial. A survey performed by Common Sense Advisory looked at 2,430 different internet users across eight different countries and found that,

  • 72.4% of consumers are more likely to buy a product or service if the website and information displayed is in their native language.
  • 56.2% of these consumers said that having information in their own language was more important than the price of the product or service.

So while languages like English and Mandarin have long been some of the most important languages to learn for business, they are not the only ones to consider as eCommerce business continues to expand globally. Countries that have been on the sidelines in terms of global business now have a fast-growing number of internet consumers. Take a look at these top nine emerging languages for your business platforms.

eCommerce business

While languages like English and Mandarin have long been some of the most important languages to learn for business, they are not the only ones to consider as eCommerce business continues to expand globally.

Portuguese 

Portugal is a relatively small European company but its language, Portuguese, has a large number of native speakers around the world, approximately 258 million.

Brazil is generally the main attraction in terms of business as Brazil is Latin America’s largest eCommerce market, it also ranks in the top five for the internet market as well as the smartphone market. Its growth has also not gone unnoticed, the British Council created a report on the ten most important languages for the future in the UK and Portuguese ranked in at number six.

Arabic

Arabic is a widely spoken language, making for 274 million speakers globally. It’s also the official language of at least 23 different countries.

In the same report by the British Council that Portuguese ranked in, Arabic came in at second which, is no surprise as there are several Arabic-speaking countries that rank in the UK’s top 50 export market for goods.

Despite some of its political difficulties, many parts of the Middle East have a wealth of internet consumers and a steadily growing economy. With many Arab people only able to speak Arabic, translation services or localization is crucial for reaching this market.


Russian

Russian is spoken by 258 million people worldwide, with the majority of them located in Russia. Russia is the up and coming hotspot for eCommerce as Russia lacks a main eCommerce platform like Amazon which, makes them the last remaining major market without a dominant online retailer. According to Morgan Stanley, eCommerce sales in Russia could triple by 2023.

Capitalising on the Russian market will require, at minimum, eCommerce translation services, as the large majority of Russians do not speak English. The best method, of course, would be a localisation strategy from a certified translation company.

Hindi

Hindi is the official language of India with 600 million people speaking it, that number in and of itself says a lot. While there are many other languages spoken in India, English has often been used to conduct business, however, that is changing. Hindi is quickly becoming more prominent among new entrepreneurs as 85% of India does not speak English. In a CSA Report, Hindi saw a gigantic 67% increase on the top 100 online languages chart, making Hindi a language and a market to pay attention to.

Japanese

While Japan had a rough go after WWII it has since become one of the most rapidly growing eCommerce markets in the world. It’s estimated that 93% of the population in Japan use the internet and with 126 million Japanese speakers, it’s a consumer market worth noting.

Relatively few people in Japan speak English, meaning that to succeed in this market translation and localization will be required.

Indonesian

Indonesia is home to 277 million people and a rapidly growing eCommerce market, thanks to an increase in middle-class consumerism and a high percentage of smartphone use.  In a report by McKinsey, the consulting firm has predicted that the value of the Indonesian eCommerce market will rise 800% by the end of 2022. To enter this market, translation and localization will be essential to your eCommerce business plan.

Korean

Korean itself doesn’t rank high in terms of the world’s most spoken languages but they do have nearly 47 million internet users and a very expansive and popular eCommerce market. Currently, 96% of the Korean population use the internet with its total eCommerce transaction sales amounting to 135 billion dollars USD in 2020 alone. This makes Korea a hub of interest for eCommerce business that is sure to continue growing.

Vietnamese

77 million people speak Vietnamese and it is the main language of trade within Vietnam. With an increase in eCommerce consumerism, it’s predicted that Vietnam will have 70 million online shoppers by 2025. Engaging with the Vietnamese market and its consumers will require translation and localization as a crucial part of any eCommerce business plan.

Polish

Poland is the ninth largest country in Europe with 41 million people speaking Polish. Poland is already home to many eCommerce companies that operate in Europe and worldwide such as Amazon. Even United States officials have taken note of Poland and the importance of eCommerce on its economic development and its intense growth over the pandemic. It’s worth considering Polish when choosing what languages to add to your business platforms if this is a market you want to break into.

Into23 offers global language solutions with quality translation and localization services. With 24/7 accessibility and fast delivery, Into23 can transform your business to enter the global market and reach even more customers. Whether you’re looking to enter the Chinese market and need English to Chinese translation services or you want to step up your website or eLearning platform, Into23 specialises in helping companies with Asian languages. Getting a quote is easy, just show us your website for a free quotation on our translation services.

The Top 10 Translation Blunders in Advertising

Use Professional Advertising Translations to avoid these pitfalls

With the ubiquity of the internet and social media, the world really is your brand’s oyster. You can reach billions more consumers than was possible just 20 years ago, but while it’s much easier to access foreign markets, it’s far harder to make a connection with consumers that speak a different language. This is where localisation comes to the rescue.

Localisation is not just about translation, though. It’s also about brand designing in a way that makes it easy for a new reader or listener to understand what you are saying. There are many pitfalls in this localisation translation process, as many a prominent brand has discovered.

Here are 10 translation blunders in advertising

… and how they demonstrate the need for professional human translation and localisation, followed by tips on how to get your marketing customisation / localisation right first time.

  1. Coors was left red-faced when it translated its Turn it Loose slogan into “suffer from diarrhoea” in Spanish. This blunder highlights the difficulty of translating slang between languages.
  2. Though chicken feet are a staple in China, citizens of the PRC were probably surprised to be encouraged to “eat their fingers off” by KFC when it tried to localise its “finger lickin’ good” slogan into mandarin.
    Source
  3. When Mercedes-Benz entered China, it chose to do so under the moniker Bensi, or rush to die.
  4. After the last two ad mishaps, Chinese consumers could probably have done with a Pepsi, given the brand promised the drink “brings you back from the grave” when it launched in China. The original brand promise was that it “brings you back to life.”
    Source
  5. Staying with the death theme, Ford advertised in Belgium by translating the slogan “every car has a high-quality body” into “every car has a high-quality corpse”. (They just need a Pepsi.)
  6. Over in the UK, Ikea introduced the Fartfull workbench into the UK, which raised much mirth.
  7. And while Paxam’s Barf washing powder also raised a few chuckles as the word means to vomit in English slang, other errors have been more insensitive.
    Source
  8. For example, Gazprom named its Nigerian company Nigaz.
  9. Every brand hopes its marketing campaigns drum up more business, but HSBC Bank didn’t even get off the starting block when it translated its “Assume Nothing” slogan into “Do Nothing” in many countries under a 2009 global campaign.
  10. But when it comes to bizarre slogan translations, The American Dairy Association excelled by asking consumers whether they were lactating, instead of the catchy “got milk.”

What is localisation? Translation, Localisation and Transcreation

If your business specialises in a particular industry, you may have developed a comprehensive dictionary of frequently used language words for your customers. You also may be translating print materials, such as brochures or web content for mobile phones and tablets. But what exact service do you need? Translation is the process of reworking a text from a source language into another language, maintaining the original meaning. Meanwhile, localisation is the process of adapting content or a product or service for a specific culture or market, and transcreation, a portmanteau of translate and creation, is a form of translation that preserves the original context, emotion, tone and intent. Transcreation often begins with a creative brief, rather than the source text, and includes the translation of images into a different context. Its uses include software localisation services.

Why it’s important to localise

Creating a product or service that caters to a global audience is a competitive advantage in today’s economy. Being able to reach the widest range of customers possible means your products or services are easier to sell in other markets. The best way to do this is to localise your product or service. A common misconception about localisation is that it’s an up-front cost and comprises a one-off period of manual translation. These are actually quite different things involved in localisation and the process is often a continuous one.

Tips on how to get localisation right first time

Use a professional multilingual team for localisation and translation. That way, localisation can be better planned and executed and you’ll be less likely to experience a faux pas. Test your translation and localisation as you go along in order to spot the right choices for the correct audience. The professionals don’t rush into creating a potentially misleading translation in order to quickly launch a campaign, service or product.

Localise your ads on a trial basis, not on the basis of any preconceptions you may have about the language. Consider all the options, have multiple mock-ups prepared for each language and test which is the best way to communicate your message in the market.

Find the right translator

Finding a translator who speaks the language you need and who can translate professionally is one thing. Finding a translator who speaks your target market’s native language and understands the cultural nuances can be quite another. If you don’t speak the language or you don’t have a translator who speaks it, a popular alternative is to contact a professional translator agency, which can ensure that the translation is done professionally and accurately, and that there will be no surprise embarrassments.

Take care of your target audience

Making sure you understand your market is imperative if you want to get localisation right. If you’re thinking about applying for a European franchise licence or entry into the Japanese market, you need to find out what your target audience is comfortable with. Look at the language the country uses for its official communication. You may find that they use only one language, like Spanish or Portuguese, or that the majority of citizens use several languages, like English, Chinese, and Korean.

Identify your consumers’ cultural needs

Understanding the needs of the people you’re targeting is just as important as understanding your market. In many cases, your target audience will be multi-ethnic, having interacted with a multitude of cultures. This is especially true in a diverse region like Asia. Moreover, localising from two closely related languages and cultures, for example with an English to French translation service, is less challenging than localising between two unrelated languages, such as with English to Chinese translation services.

Whether you need the best legal translation Hong Kong has to offer, scientific and technical translation, or game localisation services, getting localisation right means finding the right localisation translation service. To find out more, get in touch with Into23 today.

What clients want from multilingual translation services in 2021

The international business communications market reached a historic turning point last year, as companies, organizations and institutions across the world accelerated the pace of digitalising their operations. The sheer extent of the transition has spurred a corresponding demand for certified translation services in applications as varied as elearning, software localization, legal documentation and multimedia content.

As video content continues to proliferate on streaming services and social media marketing channels, the industry now sees increasing demand for high quality captions, subtitles, dubbing and voice overs. The demand for website text and marketing content translation also continues to expand as businesses increasingly plan their strategies around emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

Enterprise Translation in Asia: Market and Method

English to Chinese translation services continues to be a mainstay in the Asia-Pacific region, while consumer markets in ASEAN economies, which include Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei, Myanmar, the Philippines and Singapore drive demand for local language translations alongside Chinese and English content.

The unprecedented scale and volume of material to be translated – which is only set to increase over the upcoming decade-  results in the increasing use of Automated Translation and Machine Translation with Post Editing, in which a human translator proofreads, improves and adapts the material generated by the translation. While machine translation engines have made a lot of progress in recent years, the most practical and efficient solution for businesses that need to regularly translate material at scale is working with a language service provider that offers streamlined, cost effective Machine Translation Post Editing rates and comprehensive, value-added services.

We work with both standard Machine Translation and Neural Machine Translation, which can efficiently process complex material and adapt to infrequently translated languages and language pairs, which don’t have pre-existing datasets. Neural Machine Translation engines can also be configured to output a formal or casual style, depending on the project’s requirements, although this aspect still requires human review and editing, for which our Linguistic QA specialists are indispensable because of their experience, ability and speed.

The ideal workflow for translating material at scale heavily depends on the unique circumstances and requirements that companies face. Our experience providing Translation Management as a Service (TMaaS) for a range of different companies, from multinationals to startups and SME’s, enables us to quickly identify the relevant metrics and value drivers in any business model, from which we develop a cost effective hybrid service plan that delivers quality at speed and scale.

According to Multilingual Magazine’s 2021 Translation Trends report, the use of Machine Translation with Post Editing is on the rise across the world, with Language Service Providers in Europe indicating that they plan to expand their services. Meanwhile, language service providers in Asia increasingly partner with technology enterprises, which are required to cater to diverse audiences at scale.

The report identifies Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Portugese, Russian, Italian, Polish and Persian as the ten most translated languages in the market. In terms of market size, Multilingual cites Statista’s Chart comparing language speakers and online content.

Languages in real life and online

Source: Statista

The chart identifies Chinese as the language with the largest native speaking population in the world, with almost 1.3 billion speakers, followed by Spanish, with 442 million, English, with 378 million, Arabic, with 315 million and Hindi, with 260 million. The percentage of websites on Statista’s chart with Chinese language content, however, is just 1.7%, compared to 54% of websites displaying English content, followed by Russian, with 6%, German, with 5.9%, Spanish with 5%. And French, with 4%.

Statista’s 2020 report on the most common languages on the internet by share of active users indicates that Chinese is the second most common language used online, accounting for 19.4% of people online, compared to 25.9% for English.

Most common languages on the internet

The most common languages on the internet by share of active users. Source: Statista

The discrepancy between the size of the native Chinese speaking audience (the second largest online) and the number of websites published in Chinese indicates the extent of the opportunity for companies and publishers to expand the reach of their platforms and businesses by translating content into Chinese.

The Human Touch : Work with Expert Translation Services to Localize

The Multilingual report also emphasizes that Human Translation is still the most accurate, effective and reliable mode of translation, because of its unmatched capacity to address “context, colloquialism and creative writing.”  These factors are vital for marketing and public relations, to the extent that content translation intended for a public audience should be fully carried out by professional human translators.

Localization is only possible with human translators, and holistically adapting brands to local markets and cultures often requires transcreation. Developing an organic local voice with an authentic tone is key to building brand value when working with English to Chinese translation services in a vibrant, dynamic market like Hong Kong or Singapore.

Translation services in Hong Kong in particular often have to contend with the rapid pace at which the local language and culture develops, as new colloquial phrases frequently move in and out of favor, while the local language, Cantonese, also differs in written form (Zhongwen) from traditional Chinese in other regions.

From a brand perspective, re-adapting content from the ground up is far more effective than attempting to circulate literal translations of previously written material, which can even carry a certain level of risk in terms of inadvertently humorous connotations with local audiences. While the same principle applies to translating and localizing for European markets, some regions, due to a variety of local factors, inherently require a more hyper-localized approach. Mainland China is one of the world’s most challenging markets for this reason.

What businesses want: language services industry statistics

High quality localization and translation service providers have the ability to effectively adapt brand messaging to a local context and match the pace of publication required by any client. The characteristics that enable effective localization and transcreation align with the priorities of translation clients worldwide, regardless of the type service they require.

According to Nimdzi’s 2021 survey on Translation Buyer Priorities, the top five factors which translation services clients consider important are:

  • On-time delivery
  • Quality of Translation
  • Customer Service
  • Price
  • Number of languages offered

We work fast without compromising quality. Our commitment to developing our expertise matches our dedication to working closely with our clients, so we can provide individualized solutions that take markets and business models into account and offer better service at more cost effective rates.

At Into23 we are passionate about language, and the scope of our services is unmatched in every region. We translate all major languages, and we are experienced working in every sector. We are excited to share our expertise and insights with our clients as the industry continues to expand in Asia, where we specialize in localizing overseas companies and taking local companies global. We translate for tomorrow’s markets today.