Because English still holds supreme power in the online world, it is probably the most powerful language in the world today. It entered the stage in the mid-twentieth century, after World War II, when it replaced French as the common language of diplomacy. English has maintained its supremacy ever since, but it may not continue to dominate forever. Times are changing, economies are booming, new markets are emerging, and website owners should be on the lookout- you never know when the reign of English may cease. The question emerges: if you decide to localize your site, what would your second choice of language be? Who is challenging the language supremacy of English?
Mandarin Chinese Challenge
It is assumed that Mandarin Chinese is one of the most prominent languages in the world today. According to an estimate that dates back a few years, Mandarin is the mother tongue of nearly 950 million people, which is double the number of native English speakers. Mandarin is spoken by people in China, Singapore and Taiwan, but it has also overtaken English as the most widely used second language in Hong Kong. If we include dialects and local variants, it is clear that Mandarin is a strong language with an enormous base. It is still far from being the most powerful language on the Internet, but it is here to stay, and its importance will probably only increase in the years to come.
Spanish as a Global Force
In addition to Mandarin Chinese, there is Spanish. The importance of Spanish should not be underestimated: it is a language spoken by around 400 million people in Spain, South America (excluding the Portuguese-speaking Brazil), Equatorial Guinea and Western Sahara. In the United States, Spanish is the fourth most widely spoken language and is recognized as the native language of 37 million people, which is around 10% of the country’s population. Due to a massive influx of immigrants from Latin America, Spanish has grown so rapidly in the U.S. that there is a strong demand for professional Spanish tranlation services. With the global economy changing, it is quite obvious that Spanish will rank high as one of the most in-demand languages for website localization.
Other European Languages
However, Mandarin and Spanish are not alone in the race against English. Strong, highly developed countries are striving towards having websites in their native languages. Germany, France and Russia are such countries. The stronger a country, the greater its need for expressing independence. Although German, French and Russian have fewer native speakers than English, they are still globally recognized and taught around the world as second languages. There are other languages, such as Hindi and Arabic, which have a multitude of native speakers, yet somehow they are not currently getting picked up by the online community.
We live in a world dominated by English, but it doesn’t mean that it is the final lingua franca of civilization. Latin and Greek both served as a lingua franca for centuries, but they are now dead languages. There are more than 1 billion people speaking English, but only one third of them speak it as their native language. Technological advancements and nationalistic aspirations might easily change the balance of linguistic power in the future.