WHY DO LANGUAGES STILL MATTER IN TODAY’S WORLD?
Updated: Jan 18
The latest figures confirm English as the most spoken language all over the world, with 1.5 to 2 billion speakers. The vast majority of English speakers are, however, non-native: only 360 million people speak English as their first language. This dominion seems to apply also to the digital world: almost 60% of the Internet’s content on the first 10 billion most popular sites is in English, and the second language is Russian, clocking in at just around 8%.
Is there a point in investing in translation, localisation and interpreting services to create content adapted to local audiences? After all, if 2 billion people speak English, why bother?
The answer, however, is yes. 101%. And here’s why.
As we said, out of the 2 billion speakers of English, almost 1.7 billion are non-native. This means English is not their first language, and they might have different levels of ability when it comes to reading, speaking, talking and listening. People might be able to speak English when it comes to business meetings, read a menu or ask for and understand directions when visiting a foreign country, but that’s not enough when it comes to participating in a full-day conference, shop online or make important decisions.
As the e-commerce study by the Common Sense Advisory highlighted, 72% of consumers claim they spend all or most of their time on websites in their native language. The same percentage stated they are more likely to buy a product with information in their own language, and 56% said the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price. And there is more: the Gallup survey of language preferences among internet users in 23 EU countries equips us with some very important insights when it comes to consumers behaviour online.
When we couple this with the fact that 75% of Europeans are not able to understand English well enough to follow an English-language news broadcast, it’s easy to understand why translation, localisation and interpreting still play a pivotal role for those who want to reach a bigger audience.
What does this mean for those who have their eyes set, in particular, on the Italian market?
Italian is, together with Japanese, English, French, German and Russian, amongst the most targeted languages when it comes to translation. At the moment, 2.1% of the Internet’s content is in Italian. These two figures indicate that there is a market for Italian content and that Italians, as many other Europeans, prefer to read in their own language. This also stems from the lack of English literacy amongst Italians: the Mediterranean country ranks 21st compared to its European peers when it comes to English proficiency and 36th out of 100 worldwide countries (band: moderate) according to the EF English Proficiency Index, which is having a detrimental impact on their job opportunities as well - 54% of the 20-45 age bracket claims they have lost a career opportunity because of their insufficient level of English. According to the Eurobarometer, only 17,000,000 Italians speak English as a second language, however without providing an actual definition of the level required to qualify.
The figures talk loud and clear: English is not sufficient to cover the needs of the global audience that has access to content worldwide. Although widespread and used, English will likely be never beaten by each country’s mother tongue. That’s where translation and interpreting step in, bringing English content to target audiences and more profits into clients' pockets. As shown, Italy is one of such markets where content adaptation is essential to reach the population effectively.