Seven languages that will dominate the future

7 languages

We know that for historic, economic and political reasons, as well as for its accessibility, English has become the world’s de facto lingua franca. However, the language landscape has been changing with the growth of populations and economies outside the United States / Europe, the flow of migrants and the ease of communication on the internet and other digital technologies. English continues to grow and will continue to be essential in the near future; however, it could come to occupy a less dominant position compared to other languages that are gaining in importance. This is something of which translation service providers must be aware.

At least this is the conclusion of recent reports published by such bodies as the British Council, the ICEF, and the UN. The data shows a clear trend: Spanish and Asian languages will be an inevitable presence.
Despite the number of factors and the data involved, and the fact that it is always difficult to predict the future, all the indications are that these will become the most important languages over the coming decades.

1. English

Number of native speakers: 378 million
Total number of speakers: 1.348 billion

Practically omnipresent in the worlds of commerce, diplomacy, science and new technologies, culture and the media in general, today English can be said to be a truly global language. The number of people who can speak this language has doubled in the past 100 years, and this growth is continuing. Presently, this is an essential language for any professional, and especially for translators.

2. Mandarin

Number of native speakers: 920 million
Total number of speakers: 1.12 billion

China’s massive population growth and its global economic power are more than sufficient reason to guarantee that Mandarin, the most-spoken language in the country, will have a place on the podium in the coming decades, and this despite it being an extremely complex language that is rarely spoken outside China. Nevertheless, China’s position as an economic and political superpower (China is involved in 50% of the world’s electronic commerce) is more than enough reason for it to become an essential language in the fields of commerce as well as in the finance and technology sectors.

3. Spanish

Number of native speakers: 463 million
Total number of speakers: 543 million

In addition to its position as an official language in Spain and most of Latin America, Spanish (or Castilian) has been gaining increasing importance in the United States (according to statistics, the number of Spanish speakers in this country “exploded” from 11 million to 41 million between 1980 and 2015). Population growth in South America and the implantation of Spanish in the world’s largest economy have been key growth factors.

4. Hindi

Number of native speakers: 342 million
Total number of speakers: 637 million

Despite India’s linguistic diversity, Hindi has established itself as a common language across its many regions. The existence of Indian communities all over the world and the exponential growth of the country’s population will contribute to Hindi becoming an essential global language in the near future.

5. Arabic

Number of native speakers: 274 million
Total number of speakers: 422 million

Growing globally due to the economic importance of the oil producing countries in the Middle East and its cultural status in communities in which Islam predominates.

6. Portuguese

Number of native speakers: 220 million
Total number of speakers: 270 million

Brazil’s recent economic growth (it is currently the largest economy in South America), as well as the importance of Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa and Portugal’s position as a European Union member state has contributed to a growth in the number of people who, for professional and cultural reasons, are interested in learning the language.

7. French

Number of native speakers: 76 million
Total number of speakers: 277 million

Despite its decline over recent decades, it remains an important language in North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia) and sub-Saharan Africa (Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Burundi and Chad, which are experiencing rapid economic growth), and  remains the second official language of Canada. It also remains an important diplomatic language, and has official language status at the United Nations.