As a translation company, part of our value is the ability to help our clients understand what languages they need to use to effectively reach their own clients and customers. So, of course, it is our job to be in the know when it comes to what languages are going to be of most value when, and more importantly, where! Although with the internet it seems that we really can do anything from anywhere, when you are selling actual product as opposed to a service, local laws need to be complied with and your target audience’s habits and customs become much more important. My Mandarin isn’t going to be very useful if I want to sell sporting goods in Norway! So, as always, the nuances and changes that are constantly happening when it comes to language and marketing are important to follow and track, to stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive. Therefore, we wanted to look at the top five languages that experts suggest learning for business in 2018, as well as where those languages might be most effective.
First is, of course, Mandarin. Although it may not be particularly lucrative in Norway, the reality is that as China’s official language, Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world. The demand for Mandarin speakers will also only continue to grow, as China’s economy becomes more and more influential – Bloomberg predicted that it will overtake the United States as early as 2028. And by the end of next year, China is slated to become the world’s largest digital consumer, meaning that although as we said language is particular to location, in this case, the Chinese have the largest online presence and are shopping online in droves. While English is still the number one language for business (according to the Financial Times), definitely consider Mandarin, especially if you plan to be engaging in a lot of e-commerce.
The next big up and coming language to consider is Arabic. It is the fifth most commonly spoken language in the world, and of course is extremely useful for engaging in commerce with the Middle East’s growing economies. Not only is Arabic a growing language, it is the fourth most commonly used language on the internet. Although regional instability may be off-putting to some when it comes to learning Arabic, that same instability is partly why the language is increasingly useful. Governments and non-profit organizations that wish to work in the region need to be able to communicate and while English is commonplace, Arabic is still the language of choice. As with Mandarin, the Arabic language is generally quite difficult for native English speakers to master. The different alphabet and phonetics can be very tricky, but not impossible!
Third on the list of importance for your business is Spanish. There are nearly 400 million native Spanish speakers on the planet, making Spanish the second most commonly spoken language worldwide, after Mandarin of course. Spanish is constantly gaining use in the United States, and of course is crucial for doing business anywhere else on the American continents. Spanish is relatively easy to learn as compared to Mandarin and Arabic and will continue to be the second lingua franca worldwide following English. Although dialects vary, like American English and British English, the language is still one and only, and therefore extremely useful when trying to reach audiences in the Americas, or the Iberian Peninsula.
Surprisingly, German is the fourth most important language to learn in 2018. The largest economy in the European Union, Germany accounts for a significant number of EU imports from the rest of the world. All those products will need their labels and advertising to be translated into German, because although many Germans speak English, as we know, EU regulations require everything to be translated into the local language for distribution.
Finally, we suggest that Portuguese will be an important language to learn as we move our way through 2018. Spoken by nearly 250 million people in Portugal, Brazil and parts of Africa, Portuguese is attractive to business. Despite a deep recession, Brazil’s economy is still extremely large, and most Brazilians do not speak any English at all. The good news is that Portuguese, like Spanish, is relatively easy to learn and they are extremely similar, so if you learn one, the other one will be easy!
To conclude, language is constantly evolving, and so are markets, but it appears that at least for the time being English will remain king of the business world, followed closely by Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, German and Portuguese. Russian is, of course, on the rise, as Russians become wealthier and begin to travel more, and French will remain important in the European Union and parts of Africa. Japanese is always important when it comes to science and technology, and foreign direct investment. In any case, Ampere’s network of experienced translators is ready when you are to assist as you seek to reach your target market, wherever that may be!