Internet language diversity will only increase as more people around the world acquire access to the web.
The variety of languages spoken by Internet users means that savvy web marketers need to translate and localize their web content to communicate effectively with their audiences.
Internet Languages: Target Audiences
Depending on the target audience and the scope of the website’s audience, a website might be translated into just one other language.
For example, an English-language website geared at US audiences might translate content only into Spanish, while a Canadian website would do well to translate its content into French.
A website targeting European consumers, however, will likely want translations into multiple languages, such as French, German, Italian and Spanish.
Sometimes simply translating website content into another language isn’t enough. For many markets, localization is an essential aspect of website translation, allowing you to reach specific audiences that speak different flavors of the same language.
There are different types of Spanish around the world, for example, and the Portuguese spoken in Brazil versus that spoken in Portugal are not identical.
With this in mind, a look at the top ten languages spoken by web users can help businesses and individuals decide where to focus their website translation efforts.
According to data gathered by Internet World Stats, as of 2015 the tenth most common language among web users is German, with 83.7 million users.
Next on the list of the most commonly used languages by Internet surfers is French, with 97.2 million users.
With 98.9 million users, the Malay language is eighth on the list.
Russia has 103.1 million users, making it the seventh most common language found among Internet users.
Portuguese may seem like a bit of a dark horse in the race for the most users of a language on the Internet, but it manages to come in fifth, with a whopping 131.9 million.
Arabic has 168.1 million users on the Internet, just missing out on a top-three spot in the rankings.
Spanish is spoken all over the world, so it’s not a surprise that the language makes it into the top three of this list. There are 256.8 million Spanish speakers on the Internet.
China has the highest population of any single country in the world, so it makes sense that the Chinese language would rank high, with 704.5 million users.
English still retains the number one spot in the most commonly used languages among Internet users, with 872.9 million users, compared to 800.6 million users as of 2013 statistics.
Internet Language by Region
Examine user distribution by region, however, and a different picture emerges. According to Internet World Stats, in 2014 Asia had the largest share of Internet users with over 1 billion users, representing 45.6% of web users. Europe comes second with 18.9%, followed by Latin America/Caribbean with 10.5%, Africa with 10.3%, North America with 10.1%, the Middle East with 3.7% and Oceania/Australia with 0.9%.
Should key Asian markets continue to expand their internet usage, Chinese could be expected to supplant English as the No. 1 used Internet language.