Case study: What 5 languages should I use to translate my website?

I have recently been asked by a client about what 5 languages should he use to go international with his website. Well, beside translating in the obvious English language, I did not know which one should he go next.

I think 10 is the magic number on this, so I will enumerate just the first 10 of them. If you are interested in more than 10 languages, then the order is not quite important

 

Languages by number of native speakers

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However, all such rankings should be used with caution.[1] First, it is difficult to define the difference between a language and a dialect, or between a language and a macro language; for example, Chinese is sometimes considered a single language and sometimes a macro language whose many varieties are all independent languages.

Top 10 languages by population around the globe.

Rank Language Native
speakers
in millions
Percentage
1 Mandarin 935 14.1%
2 Spanish 390 5.85%
3 English 365 5.52%
4 Hindi 295 4.46%
5 Arabic 280 4.23%
6 Portuguese 205 3.08%
7 Bengali 200 3.05%
8 Russian 160 2.42%
9 Japanese 125 1.92%
10 Punjabi 95 1.44%

List of languages by total number of speakers (multilingual)

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Please note that this list may include the same person 2 or 3 times if that person is speaking 2 or 3 languages. Also there is no single criterion for how much knowledge is sufficient to be counted as a second-language speaker. So use this lists with caution.

Rank Language First languages (millions) Second language (millions) Total (millions)
1 total Chinese 1,200 ? >1,200
2 Mandarin 850 180 in China 1,030
3 English 340 510 840
4 Arabic 240 250 490
5 Spanish 400 90 490
6 Modern Standard Hindi 260 120 in India 380
7 Russian 170 ? >170
8 Portuguese 200 ? >200
9 Bengali 190 20 in Bangladesh 210
10 French 80 140 220

Stats for all internet users by language

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We have just seen the languages by total number of speakers. But how much of this people are actually Internet users?  You would be surprised…

Rank Language Internet

users

 Percentage
1 English 873 25.9%
2 Chinese 704.5 0.9%
3 Spanish 256.8 7.6%
4 Arabic 168.2 5.0%
5 Portuguese 131.9 9%
6 Japanese 115 3.4%
7 Russian 103.1 3.1%
8 Malay 98.9 2.9%
9 French 97.2 2.9%
10 German 83.7 2.5%
11–36 Others 734 21.8%
Total 3.37 Billion 100%

Languages used on the Internet to write content

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This is the list of most used languages to write content on the Internet. You can look at it and think “How much competition will I have?” Well, a lot if you go for English 😉

This are the estimated percentages of the about 10.1 million websites using various content languages as of 18 March 2015

Rank Language Percentage
1 English 55.5%
2 Russian 5.9%
3 German 5.8%
4 Japanese 5.0%
5 Spanish 4.6%
6 French 4.0%
7 Chinese 2.8%
8 Portuguese 2.5%
9 Italian 1.9%
10 Polish 1.7%

List of Countries by Internet Usage

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But think about it a little bit more. We may be looking at this the wrong way. How much people have access to the internet if I am interested in a specific country localization instead of a language? This could be a good question to decide your expansion.

Rank Country Internet Users (millions) Total Country Population (millions) Country % of World Population Country % of World Internet Users
1 China 641.6 1,393.8 19.24% 21.97%
2 United States 279.8 322.6 4.45% 9.58%
3 India 243.2 1,267.4 17.50% 8.33%
4 Japan 109.3 127 1.75% 3.74%
5 Brazil 107.8 202.0 2.79% 3.69%
6 Russia 84.4 142.5 1.97% 2.89%
7 Germany 71.7 82.7 1.14% 2.46%
8 Nigeria 67.1 178.5 2.46% 2.30%
9 United Kingdom 57.1 63.5 0.88% 1.95%
10 France 55.4 64.6 0.89% 1.90%

 

So which are the most used languages all over the places, and which one should I choose to translate my website?

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After all this lists and language statistics, this still is a good question. Which is the best language for localization? Remember this depends of lots of factors like your website niche, audience and the product or service that you are selling.

Anyway, I will give a shot and provide you with a list of 5 languages.

Rank Language
1 English
2 Chinese
3 Arabic
4 Russian
5 Spanish

Please let me know which are your top 10 language to translate to and it will be interesting knowing why ? But you have to think fast because this is the evolution of user using the internet and it is growing really fast:

Internet Users in the World

You can read more on this subject on the Wikipedia website:

 

 

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