Language is the primary tool for expression and effective communication. There are more than 7000 languages spoken today. Yet English – though not the most spoken language globally- seems to be the language with which 80% of the world’s interactions occur, whether verbally or online.
With the rise of the internet since the mid-’90s, businesses have also gone online. And to effectively communicate in the global market, the need for English-only websites has increased.
The scenario then and now:
Although having just some 350million native speakers worldwide, English is considered the ‘Lingua Franca’ of the global business. Including the fact that there are two other languages with a higher number of native speakers, namely, Mandarin with 1.2 billion native speakers and Spanish with 400 million native speakers.
The question remains how English achieved such an impressive achievement. With British Colonialism and Imperialism, the British took their culture and language globally.
They succeeded in establishing their language as the global language. Today people speak English in every part of the world. Moreover, English is easy to learn rather than languages such as Mandarin. The structure and rules of the language are not complicated. More people have learned to speak the language as a second language than any other language in the world. In some cases (and it is becoming a norm), most children with non-native English-speaking parents have picked English as their first language. It is their best and most fluent language.
Increase in use of internet
The dramatic increase in the use of the internet has significantly influenced online content. More than a 4.7billion people use the internet, up nearly 113% of the 2.21 billion users reported in 2015. English – as considered the global language- was a commonly used language for online content. But this scenario has changed today.
English language content dropped from 80% to about 45% between the mid-’90s and mid-‘2000s, with some experts placing in less than 40%. Digitalization, global adoption of smartphones, availability of cheap internet, and the emergence of social media fired the change.
According to a study of 2011, over the decade, many non-English website pages exploded, especially in Arabic, Russian, Chinese, and Spanish. Chinese is currently the second-most common language used online, increasing by a staggering 2,227% since 2000. Spanish represents a distant third, with Arabic, a fast-growing fourth.
The change in the number of English content is also evident in social media. China and India currently lead the world in Internet and social media usage. China, not being an English-first market, and nearly 90% of people not speaking English in India contribute to this cause.
The Business Scenario:
For effective business needs effective communication. As the scenario of English as the ‘Lingua Franca’ is changing, so as the business going online.
According to a 2006 survey by Common Sense Advisory, 73% of respondents were more likely to buy in their native language. Eight years later, the group conducted a larger-scale study. Consumer demand had increased to 75%.
The 2014 survey found that nearly 60% of respondents either “spend more time on sites in their native language than they do in English—or boycott English-language URLs altogether.”
According to a 2011 study of European online consumers revealed that when given the choice, 90% of respondents always chose their native language. Nearly 20% said they never visit websites that aren’t available in their language. Over 40% said they said they never purchase products and services in other languages.
The conclusions are clear. English does not continue to be the Lingua Franca of the Internet. And as the internet continues to develop and reach out to more people in the future, the English language as the ‘Lingua France’ would be a myth.