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October 24, 2017 |

What Are The Most Popular Languages for Translation?

It’s no secret that your online presence makes your brand stronger and increases your chances of selling in any part of the world. Thanks to the internet, there’s no limit when it comes to reaching new audiences and engaging with people from different time zones and cultures. But what are the most popular languages for communicating online?  

There are certainly many in play. The internet alone can’t overcome language barriers. English is the official language online and, without doubt, one of the most popular languages in the world.

Yet, not everyone speaks English. Three in four internet users from South America, Europe and Asia prefer buying products in their native languages. And, for more than half of them, having information in their local language is more important than price, when buying.

Getting your site translated into the most popular languages will clearly boost your sales efforts and customer share. 

Why is Translation Essential for Business?    

Translation and localization place you closer to your public, increase conversion rates and boost revenues. They help to make your brand popular among locals and give you a better fighting chance against regional competitors.

From product descriptions to your website and marketing messages, everything should be expressed in the local language where you do business.

Internet World Stats lists the top ten most popular languages on the internet. Besides English, the next most used languages online are Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Indonesian, Japanese, Russian, French and German.

Choosing the right languages for translation depends, of course, on the business opportunities you’re looking for. Some languages give you access to a large number of users, while others allow you to engage with less people, but with potentially higher purchasing power.

So choose the most popular languages that can help your business grow. Let’s take a closer look.

Simplified Chinese

It’s the official written language in China, while Mandarin is the spoken dialect. So, for all your written content, you need to translate into Simplified Chinese. When you need an interpreter, you should be looking for a Mandarin specialist.

Almost one fifth of internet users speak Chinese, making it one of the most popular languages for translation online. In fact, China is the second largest economy in the world, which makes Chinese a useful language for creating new business opportunities as well.

It’s not just the 770 million internet users. China will exceed $1 trillion in ecommerce next year and will become the largest ecommerce market in the world. But, as most Chinese people don’t speak English, you’ll need to teach your website the local language well, if you want to enter this huge market.


It’s the second most spoken language in the world, after Chinese, and the next most popular language for translation.

Translating into Spanish gives you the chance to reach over 500 million people, in countries from Europe and Latin America. To get the most out of your translation, you should localize for each country you’re planning to expand to, as speech and vocabulary vary from region to region and country to country.

Spanish speaking countries offer a wide range of business opportunities, especially in terms of economic growth. Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Peru are all on the list of the top 50 countries in the world with the highest GDPs.

Today, around 10 percent of all web content is in Spanish. This number will grow, as the purchasing power of people in Spanish speaking countries becomes higher. Spanish is also said to be one of the easiest languages to learn, which explains why it’s one of the most popular languages of all.


Arabic is the seventh most popular language online, with a growing number of internet users. Almost 46 million people search the internet in the Arabic language only. Even Google has developed domains and integrated language options for 15 Arabic countries.

280 million people speak Arabic in 28 countries. Ignoring this language means fewer chances to conquer a market that will reach $20 billion in ecommerce by 2020.

The middle east is a high growth region, with a huge potential for businesses. So invest in Arabic content now to gain a competitive edge, while less than two percent of the internet is written in Arabic.

This language remains less popular for translation, because of its character. According to Common Sense Advisory, Arabic regional versions occupy an important role in digital marketing, making translation and localization difficult and more expensive than for other languages.

Portuguese (Brazilian)

The 2016 Olympic Games shifted attention towards Brazil, a country with high economic potential and one of the most popular languages. Despite three years of recession and high rates of unemployment, Brazil’s economy is finally showing signs of recovery.

Brazil is the largest internet market in Latin America, with 140 million internet users. By 2021, this country will reach an internet penetration rate of 61 percent. Businesses that invest in localization for this country will reach even higher audiences in the following years.

Another advantage of this local market consists in the country’s young population. More than half of Brazilians are under 30, which means more people in the workforce, with the possibility of higher income and a growing middle class.

Indonesian (Malay)

When thinking about the most popular languages, you probably didn’t consider Indonesian, which is a version of Malay and the official language of Indonesia. Even if the local population speaks over 700 living languages, Indonesian is the only language recognized officially, and used in administration, commerce and media.  

Indonesia is an attractive market for digital marketers, with more than 150 million internet users. And Indonesians are important internet consumers, with a passion for social media, especially YouTube and Facebook, which adds importance to Malay as one of the most popular languages.

Content marketing in Indonesia offers important growth opportunities, so Indonesian has a great chance of becoming even more popular among languages for translation. The ecommerce market in Indonesia reached $5.6 billion in 2016.


With all eyes on China, businesses often forget about localizing for Japan, but Japanese still makes the list of the most popular languages. If you plan to expand in Asia, you can’t miss this market. Japan registered 77 million digital buyers in 2015 and retail ecommerce sales are steadily growing.

Between Japan’s advantages in terms of digital marketing, you should consider that more than 90 percent of this country’s population is urban. They like shopping with their smartphones and are fond of Western products. In terms of ROI, translating into Japanese is certainly one of the most popular languages and most profitable.

Moreover, 99 percent of Japanese people don’t speak English. So, if you want to engage with a Japanese audience, you need localization.

This language has several writing systems and complex grammar, which results in higher costs, because Japanese is hard to translate into. But the 109 million Japanese users online makes this one of most popular languages worth the effort.


The next on the list of most popular languages is an official language in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. But translating into Russian opens your business up to people from more than these four countries, as Russian is widely spoken in Eastern Europe. So, you’ll also reach audiences in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Bulgaria, Finland and Georgia.

About 109 million internet users speak Russian. Many of them have basic knowledge of English. In Russia alone, 30 million people shop online and ecommerce is thriving.

For now, it seems that Russians prefer shopping from local online stores, and Chinese sites are gaining in popularity. However, the Russian online market remains an opportunity for foreigners, especially if they sell footwear, smartphones, tablets, computers, household appliances, electronic devices, goods for children, cosmetics, perfumes and furniture.


One of the most popular languages for translation, French is an official language in countries with strong economies. If your website speaks French, you can reach audiences in France, parts of Canada, Monaco, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and parts of the Caribbean.

All these French-speaking countries have seen consistent growth in the ecommerce local markets. 36 million French internet users shop online, spending an average $2,100 annually.  

French-speaking countries also include African countries with growing economies: Rwanda (the second easiest country in Africa to do business), Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to name a few. 


With less than 100 millions speakers online, German still counts as one of the most popular languages on the internet. W3Techs registers that 5.6 percent of the most visited websites are in German.

Countries with important economies have German as an official language: Germany (the largest economy in the EU), Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Belgium. The German ecommerce market has the fastest growth in Europe, expected to pass $65 billion in 2017.

The German online market is divided between Amazon and the local giant, Otto. Small businesses have little chances of making a difference. So, in this context, not having your website localized into German, one of the most popular languages, means not selling at all.

Most Popular Languages for Translation

The internet penetration rate in emerging countries is growing faster than ever. Such a dynamic environment brings in changes. So, before deciding on these ten most popular languages for translation, you should think about the future.

Some trends place other languages on top in the following years. Hindi and Korean (in Asia), Finnish and Danish (in Europe) are going to become popular languages online, as the local online markets are growing and the most popular languages will certainly change. So, watch this space!