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Matinee Blog

Top 10 languages used in business

When using business translation services, the first – and most important – thing you need to do is decide which languages to focus on. When it comes to localising content to reach a wider audience, which countries are your key markets?

Adding voice-over or subtitles to marketing videos, for example, can be a really cost-effective way of getting your message across to lots more potential customers, but you need to prioritise who you’re targeting in order to be effective.

Obviously your choice(s) will depend on your particular product or service, but as a starting point we’ve put together a list of Top 10 languages used in business today (most relevant to the UK, and excluding English).

Our Top 10 has been compiled from four other lists:

So, based on all of this information, here is our own Top 10 of languages that should be a priority for any corporate translation service in the UK:

  1. German
  2. Spanish
  3. French
  4. Chinese
  5. Japanese
  6. Arabic
  7. Russian
  8. Brazilian Portuguese
  9. Italian
  10. Polish

Let’s look at three of these in more detail – German, Chinese and Brazilian Portuguese.

German

Traditionally, many UK businesses have targeted other European countries, because of their geographical proximity. There is even an acronym for the first four languages usually chosen – FIGS (French, Italian, German, Spanish) – so it’s no surprise that all of these are in our Top 10.

German is number one mainly because of the size of Germany’s economy – currently the largest in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. Germany has the biggest consumer market in the European Union, with a population of over 80 million people.

Germany is the world’s third largest importer and exporter. Its primary imports include machinery, data processing equipment, vehicles, chemicals, metals, electrical equipment and foodstuffs. Over 50% of Germany’s imports come from other EU countries, and the UK is Germany’s single largest trading partner.

Image of German cars

Add in other factors – such as Germany’s central location in the heart of Europe, as well as its political stability, efficient infrastructure and highly skilled workforce – and it’s obvious why German is such a popular choice for business translation services.

Chinese

Increasingly, as well as FIGS, another important acronym to remember is BRICS. This is an association of five major emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. All five of these are developing or newly industrialised countries, but all are members of the G-20 and all have rapidly growing economies.

China has the biggest economy of all the BRICS countries – indeed it’s the second largest in the world, after the United States. It’s also the largest manufacturing economy in the world, the largest exporter and the second largest importer. Key imports (specifically from the UK) include vehicles, machinery, medical and technical equipment, metals, pharmaceuticals and plastics – but all kinds of businesses are tuning into the Chinese market.

Image of numerous containers

The main reason why we’ve singled out Chinese as one of the most important of the Top 10 business languages is that China, with its huge population of over 1.3 billion people (one fifth of the world’s population), has the fastest growing consumer market in the world. See our article on ‘How to do business successfully in China’ for more inspiration about how our corporate translation servicesv could help you reach this new audience.

Brazilian Portuguese

Brazil is another one of the BRICS countries, with abundant mineral and agricultural resources and an important emerging economy – the sixth largest in the world and the largest in Latin America. Currently the country has a relatively low level of imports – the main ones being vehicles and vehicle parts, pharmaceuticals, electrical equipment and chemicals.

However, Brazil is a country to watch. It’s predicted that it will soon grow out of its ‘emerging’ status to become one of the world’s richest and most developed countries. When this happens, Brazilian Portuguese will rise even further up the Top 10 list of languages – and become an even higher priority for business translation services.

Agriculture in Brazil