Native English-speakers tend to think their language is the top dog, but out of the roughly seven thousand existing languages, English is number 3. It has under half the native speakers than Mandarin Chinese does. English has the biggest online presence due to Westernization. Still, English-speakers should know the other most popular languages to broaden their reach.
If English is your only language and you don’t plan to start learning or translating, you’ll learn a lesson when you foray into international business. Some valuable contacts prefer doing business in their native languages. You lose money when you can’t talk to them.
Not too many English-speaking businesspeople want to learn other languages. Using translation services is a popular solution. Here’s all you need to know about some of the most popular languages for translation.
1. Simplified Chinese
Mandarin Chinese is the top spoken language—not a written language.
There are two main Chinese written alphabets. Simplified Chinese is the most common variety. Traditional Chinese is the other alphabet.
Simplified Chinese is popular online and in business for expressing several varieties of Chinese. That makes it easier for citizens of China, Singapore, and Malaysia to communicate.
China and nearby countries make and export a wide range of products to Western nations. Translating Simplified Chinese gives businesspeople and others access to over a billion possible contacts.
Simplified Chinese is much different from the Latin alphabet used in English. Often, people are afraid to learn it for that reason. More English-speakers talking to Chinese-speakers opt to work with a translation company instead of learning to read and write Simplified Chinese.
2. Standard Arabic Alphabet and “Arabglish”
With so many varieties and Arab nations, Arabic is among the top five most spoken (and written) languages.
The language has a huge range of dialects. 30 countries and regions have particular twists. Some are so different that some groups call them separate languages.
Many people grow up learning Arabic as a local language. Yet, most Arabs understand one another using the variety called Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) or Modern Written Arabic (MWA). News outlets and organizations within Arab countries communicate using MSA, and it’s the typical version used in international business.
There’s a more formal common version of Arabic that, for the most part, Muslims and some literary and linguistic scholars learn. It’s termed Classical Arabic and is exclusive to the Islamic holy book, called the Quran, and other ancient texts.
Thousands of years ago, Arabic became one of the first written languages. A few decades ago, at the advent of the Internet, Arabs had to adapt. Some people couldn’t access Arabic characters on their keyboards, so a new variety that’s often known as Arabglish—among many other similar names— emerged.
Arabglish transliterates Arabic into Latin characters (A, B, C, and so on) and Western Arabic numerals (such as 1, 2, 3). Arabglish-writers use numerals for counting and math, as well as for representing Arabic characters with no Latin equivalents.
The Arab world is a huge player in international business and faces many military invasions. Arabs in non-Arabic-speaking nations often struggle with language barriers and face discrimination.
All of these facts about this complex language are reasons Arabic is one of the most popular languages for translation.
3. Mexican Spanish and Other Varieties
As with Arabic, there are several varieties of the Spanish language. The most common variant of Spanish is Mexican Spanish. This is convenient for Americans, as the USA borders Mexico.
Spanish, also known as Castillian, originated in the Iberian Peninsula. The landmass is now divided into Spain and Portugal, for the most part.
The Spanish language spread to Mexico and South America when Spaniards invaded those landmasses and suppressed the many native languages in the area. Many of those local languages still exist but are now endangered, with under 1,000 native speakers.
After Spaniards introduced Spanish to the regions now known as Latin America, dialects developed. Unlike Arabic, the Spanish dialects share a majority of the same words and spellings. Non-native speakers tend to switch between Spanish dialects with more ease than others do between varieties of Arabic.
Latin America’s major role in textile production, fruit-growing, and other industries all make Spanish a very popular language for translation. It’s great for business, as well as for the legal profession. Immigration law is growing at a rapid pace, as countless Spanish-speaking immigrants need representation.
A unique factor about translating Spanish is that there’s a surge in people learning the language. This is due in large part to the growing Spanish-speaking population in the United States. Spanish is a popular language for businesspeople and others to translate for themselves as they learn.
4. Indonesian, Malaysian, and Other Versions of Malay
English-speakers who aren’t familiar with many languages often haven’t heard of Malay. In part, this is due to the range of vernaculars within the Malay world—around 290 million people. Indonesian and Malaysian are the most common varieties of Malay.
Indonesian is the standardized form of Malay. Roughly 260 million of the 290 million speak and write in Indonesian. As Malay is so common, it’s also one of the most popular languages used on the internet.
Workers in the Malay world produce many textiles and other products for American companies. They also export other much-needed goods.
Indonesia exports coal, petroleum, cars, and gold to the United States. Malaysia produces electrical equipment, oil, and computers.
Those are some of the most valuable commodities around. Translating Indonesian and other Malay varieties so you can do business could be the key to becoming rich!
Other Fascinating Facts Like the Most Popular Languages for Translation
Now you know the most popular languages for translation. It’s must-know information if you want a job in the translation industry or to do international business. This list also breaks language barriers, gives you a leg up in trivia, and makes good small talk.
If you want to read more fascinating facts, like this list of popular languages, take a look around the site. We have the information you need on all kinds of topics. Click on another article to learn about something else you should know.