The reality of our world’s increasingly globalised society could, in the future, pose a big stumbling block for these businesses who do not invest in interpretation and translation.


According to The Economist, nearly half of 572 senior executives interviewed said that misunderstandings and “messages lost in translation” have stalled major international business deals for their companies. More than 60 percent of these executives also said that poor communication skills have negatively affected their plans to expand internationally.

As organisations try to adapt to this new reality and optimize their language-access strategies, most are asking: Which languages are the most important for business?

Chinese (Mandarin)

  • Number of native speakers: 1.2 billion
  • Percentage of total Internet traffic: 19.3 percent
  • There are nearly 141,000 native Chinese speakers (including Mandarin and Cantonese) living in the United Kingdom today.

Ethnologue estimates the number of native speakers at almost 1.2 billion, roughly a billion of whom speak Mandarin. This makes it the most spoken language in the world, and the second-most utilized online behind English (25.4 percent).

The economic numbers coming out of China are staggering:

  • China will account for 35.2 percent of global real GDP growth between now and next year.
  • Since 1990, over 800 million Chinese citizens have been lifted out of extreme poverty.
  • By 2029, there will be more people in China’s middle class than there are total people in the USA.


  • Number of native speakers: 515 million
  • Percentage of total Internet traffic: 8.1 percent
  • There are 120,000 native Spanish speakers living in the United Kingdom today.

Several of the fastest-emerging economies in the world speak Spanish, including Mexico, Colombia, and Paraguay. More than 20 countries around the world use Spanish as their official language.


  • Number of native speakers: 435 million
  • Percentage of total Internet traffic: 5.3 percent
  • There are nearly 160,000 native Arabic speakers living in the United Kingdom today.

The gross domestic product of the Arab world exceeds $600 billion, making it one of the globe’s wealthiest regions. This area incorporates many of the world’s largest producers of oil and natural gas, including Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the city-state of Dubai.


  • Number of native speakers: 412 million
  • Percentage of total Internet traffic: 3.2 percent
  • There are nearly 150,000 native French speakers living in the United Kingdom today.

At first glance, the total number of French speakers may seem inflated since the population of France is just 66.9 million. The excess can be attributed to many African countries speaking French, as well. As a result of population growth in these regions, it is estimated that the number of French speakers will rise to over 700 million by 2050.

French is like English in that it is taught as a foreign language in the education systems of most countries around the world. It is the second most-widely learned foreign language in the world, with almost 120 million students and 500,000 teachers.


  • Number of native speakers: 286 million
  • Percentage of total Internet traffic: 4.1 percent
  • There are 133,000 native Portuguese speakers living in the United Kingdom today

Though less popular than Spanish, Portuguese is spoken by nearly 300 million people the world over. Most significantly, it is the official language of Brazil, which has the ninth largest economy in the world and is expected to account for 1.2 percent of all global growth next year.

LanguageLine Can Help

For more than three decades, LanguageLine has played an essential role in the globalisation strategy of many top companies, providing interpretation and translation in more than 240 languages. Why not get in touch to discuss how LanguageLine can be of assistance to your organisation.