Is English the online Lingu Franca for reaching everyone everywhere?
Whilst English is the current dominant Lingua Franca of international diplomacy, business, science, technology and aviation, it does not have an official online status and, in all probability, will never have. From an online perspective, English is not suitable for reaching everyone everywhere. Online usage of English tends to polarise the world into Internet users and Internet illiterates.
The popularity of languages changes over time, and there are many Lingua Francas that are of historical importance including French, which was the language of European diplomacy from the 17th until the mid-20th century, and Classical Chinese, which served as both the written Lingua Franca and the diplomatic language in Far East Asia until the early 20th century. French and Chinese are still significant Lingua Francas.
Today, English has a great reach for US, UK, Europe and parts the southern hemisphere, but that is as far as it goes. English language users represent around 21% of global online presence with a total spend power of 35% of the global economy. The English online spending power statistic is however, the greatest percentage at present!
Is there an online Lingua Franca for reaching everyone everywhere ?
Having worked on many bilingual and multilingual localisation projects, I have come to the conclusion that there are still many active Lingua Francas, it just depends on where you are located in the world and who is the target audience.
The general rule of thumb is that online users prefer communicating and buying online products or services in their native language sets.
How many languages do I need for an effective global marketing campaign?
It is a fact that you can reach around 80% of online users using a mix of 10 -12 popular languages. These include the following which are marked up with (%) percentage values of their global reach and (%) values of online spending power. These stats are available from the Common Sense Advisory group.
These stats are quite interesting as they demonstrate, for example, that Japan with only 4.5% of the worlds online users have a spending rate of nearly double the Chinese who have over 22.7% of online users.
As a starting point for localisation strategies, using English plus translating into 8 or 9 other carefully selected languages which meet your target markets, will help you to achieve excellent returns on your campaigns and provide valid research data to roll out additional follow campaigns as and when required.
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