Why the most economically active languages change over time

Why the most economically active languages change over time

Access to the Internet is increasing worldwide. As more countries are able to go online and engage with this valuable resource, the linguistic makeup of the digital world experiences a dramatic shift.

Every year, Common Sense Advisory (CSA) aims to document the population of languages being used online in an annual report. The 2013 report was recently released, titled, “The 116 Most Economically Active Languages Online.”

In this report, CSA broke down data sets into four main categories: 

1.     Total Online Population (TOP). This included how many native speakers of a language go online to look up information. TOP measures the total reach of any language.

2.     Share of TOP. This number describes the share of each language accessed online out of all the languages.

3.     World Online Wallet (WOW). This metric takes into account the economic opportunity as a whole. It includes both online and offline opportunities using each country’s GDP. With this information, marketers can see how much economic involvement comes from being digitally connected.

4.     Share of WOW. This number describes each languages share for the total world online wallet.

CSA report findings

Looking through the data pulled together by CSA, there are a few glaring revelations. Previously dominant languages — including French, English, German, and Japanese — declined. Now, more populations are using their native language to access information on a global scale. In fact, this same CSA report in 2012 only included 84 languages. The 2013 report includes 116.

It is important to note that not all languages are relevant enough to count. CSA focused exclusively on the online communities where there was a population base of native speakers and an active online community. When there are both components, languages qualify to be included in this report.

As comprehensive and compelling as the data found in CSA’s report might be, many people wonder why these languages change so frequently. What triggers a language to rise to the top? What makes a dominant language fall?

New economic growth

The biggest reason for the list changing year after year is economic development.

As economies develop, there is more money to pour into infrastructure and education. When that happens, technology expands, giving more access to the Internet among smaller communities worldwide.

One example of how powerful economic growth is on the top economically active languages online is the Persian language compared to Swedish. Persian grew by 30.5% from 2012 to 2013. Swedish decreased by 13.7%. With such a large nation dropping, and such an up-and-coming nation growing, it’s clear that economic growth plays a critical role in the changes of rank.

Added countries

Another big reason for the regular changes of the most economically active languages is the addition of countries to the list.

This marks an interesting revelation. What many companies fail to realize is how quickly the linguistic makeup of the Internet is changing. For example, Arabic grew by 21% in 2013 because new Arabic speaking countries were added to CSA’s list.

In addition, adding countries made a significant impact on old list languages as well as new. For example, English fell by 9%.

With an increased number of languages spoken and used to find information online, there is an increased demand for more support. Whether you sell a global pharmaceutical drug, or you represent a client with international offices, it is crucial that you stay current on these trends. Not doing so could cost you significant global opportunities.

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