With more people than ever before accessing the internet, the languages we see used on websites are starting to change.
According to the organization Internet World Stats, the three languages most commonly found on the internet as of 2015 are English, with 872.9 million users, Chinese, with 704.5 million users, and Spanish with 256.8 million users. Other languages in the top ten, from number four to ten, include Arabic, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, Malaysian, French and German.
Over the past few years we’ve already seen changes in this list as certain languages like Arabic become more dominant and others like Korean lose ground. No doubt as we move forward and the world continues to become more globalized, we will see even more changes to this list of internet languages.
The question remains what exactly will these changes amount to – and what will they mean for internet users down the road?
Changing Status of Different Internet Languages
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint just which languages will reign supreme in the future, there are some trends that can help predict basic rankings. English and Spanish are among the fastest-growing languages world-wide, for instance, while new educational measures in the US and Europe are boosting knowledge of languages like Arabic and Chinese.
It’s also important to note the changing status of languages based on geography. For instance, Spanish is increasingly important in the United States. This is due not only to increased numbers of Spanish-speaking immigrants over the past decades, but also to increased American acknowledgement of the Spanish language’s significance within the country. As a result, many websites of US-based companies and even government services are now available in Spanish.
Increased Translation of Languages on the Internet
What sets the internet apart from any other type of media is that it serves as a global forum allowing people all over the world to contribute. As internet technology becomes more widespread and a greater number of people have access to the internet, more and more websites will seek to reach out to this increasingly varied pool of users.
Although website language translation will likely continue to focus on major linguistic target groups, like Spanish and English, odds are that the web will be translated into a greater variety of languages as well. As a result, internet language translation will not only become more common, it will become more diverse. It may well be that the standard website of the future will offer translation into five languages or more.
Consequences of Changes in Web Languages
The future changes in languages used on the internet will permit a wider group of people than ever before to participate in the online world.
One danger of increased interest in web translation is that website owners, thinking that internet language is generally not formal or complicated, will turn to automated computer translations for their websites. Although it’s true that website language translation is less complicated than something like a legal or medical document, using automated translation is still a huge mistake.
Not only is automated translation largely unable to capture linguistic nuances, like idioms, it almost always results in confusing or downright unintelligible translation errors – even for the simplest phrases. Moving forward, its important that companies take the time to not only translate, but localize their website as well.
Future translation of languages on the web offers the wonderful possibility of opening the internet up to a greater number of people than ever before, but it won’t make a difference if the translations are impossible to understand.