The 21st Century is known as the technological era with the introduction of the internet being potentially its greatest achievement. Due to the internet and its constantly advancing abilities, people are now able to access information once thought impossible to locate and understand. The internet has become so essential to everyday life that we now use it to purchase everything from new cars, to booking holidays and even buying daily groceries. Soon we may not need to leave home at all.
Many people have bought an iPad and a special iPad sim card so they can access the internet absolutely anywhere and anytime. Unfortunately, as with everything in life, the internet does come with its disadvantages. Despite the widespread availability of the internet, its resources are still not evenly spread with some countries and regions having far more accessibility to its convenience and advantages than others. Strangely enough, as technology of the internet develops we have seen an increase in worldwide usage from all continents. In fact, the countries that had an initial sluggish response to internet access have suddenly shown a great surge in user growth beyond those who had good accessibility from the outset.
This surge was seen in the year 2000 among inhabitants of the African description. Originally the number of internet users totalled at just over 4.5 million individuals. Due to the technological advancements, a decade later in 2010 users from the African continent clock in at over 5.4 million individuals. Furthermore, there is a continuous growth from this target group on an annual basis. Yet, when you compare them to the overall global popular they contribute to only 4% of worldwide users – only a drop in the ocean. It should be noted that the Middle East has also shown this sort of increase in the same amount of time rocketing from 1.5% of the global percentage to 2.9%.
If these two fast growing continents, in terms of internet usage that is, are mere drops in the ocean – where is all the other internet usage coming from? Naturally, it would be received from the larger continents – North America, Europe and Asia. With closer inspection one would notice that it is primarily the United States of America, the United Kingdom and China respectively.
Looking at the Languages
If one examines the internet usages statistics, one would see that the greatest amounts of users are located in North America, Europe and Asia – as is stated above. Based on these figures one may assume that the most popular language would one other than English due to the greater amount of ‘foreign’ languages in Europe and China. However, despite the United States of America being lower in the list of users, English still dominates as the most utilised online language. This truly is shocking as the total number of native English speaking individuals globally is only approximately 350 million. The amount of individuals who speak English as a second language weighs in at an approximate total of 1.3 billion worldwide. This may account for English being named the ‘global language’ in the 21st century both on and off the Internet. Yet, one must remember that these non-native English speakers do contribute to the internet in their mother tongue as well as in English.
The second most frequently used language globally and on the internet is that of Chinese. According to the year CNNIC, the number of Chinese online users increased by an outstanding 42% in one decade coming in as 420 million users as of 2010. Due to the political and economic influence of the Chinese and Asian continent, it is expected that these numbers will continue to grow. By the year 2025 it is predicted that Chinese will overtake English as the global online language of choice.
3. The other languages
Following English and Chinese, the most requested and frequently used languages on the internet are Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese. This is particularly interesting as online resources indicate that the most spoken languages in Europe are Russian closely followed by French. Yet, Russian is indicated as the ninth most popular language used on the internet with French located above it at position eight.
Another perplexing issue examines the influence of Asia. While Chinese is the most commonly spoken language within the continent and is so represented among the languages online, the next most well-known language of Asia is Hindi. Yet Hindi is not represented at all as a popular online language. This is confusing as Hindi is spoken by approximately 900 million individuals, almost the entire population of the European continent.
When looking at the African continent – one of the most rapidly growing options – one will notice that only three of the numerous language options are illustrated on the online language statistics chart these being English, Arabic and French. These additional ‘other’ languages seem to make no impact whatsoever on the global online language arena whatsoever.
Below is a table indicating the top ten languages as of 2012 taken from STAR Translation Services website.
What effect does this have on websites and marketing?
As is aforementioned the internet is essential to our daily lives as a source of information and organisation. However, it is also a mode of mass communication, which is an aspect all internet markets and web designers must consider. The continued advancement in internet social media has provided businesses – small and large – with the ability to promote themselves to individuals worldwide and expand their online presence. However, there is an issue which must be addressed when developing a website and marketing campaign, something which is often neglected – the issue of language.
When examining a target audience you need to establish the group’s language. Although English is the global language it does not account for all usage. As has been seen Chinese and Spanish are two of the top three most frequently used alternatives and this must be noted. When adapting a website to the audience’s domestic language or ‘localising’ you are not only making the site more user-friendly but enhancing promotion of your brand. This increases your online presence and boosts your reputation.
Final words on the matter
Due to invention of the internet, and a global Diaspora, English has reached the home of nearly every individual worldwide dubbing it the global language. However, statistics have shown that it is not the only language used on the internet and websites must take this into consideration if they want to be successful.
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