Top World Business Languages - Update

We know for sure that doing business in the language of your client is one of the keys to international business success – and we are always on the lookout for empirical evidence to support this. So we are indebted to language industry consultants Common Sense Advisory (CSA) for issuing a new report on the top world business languages.

We quote a 2008 IMF report based on a calculation of Gross World Product (i.e. GDP – Gross Domestic Product – but for the whole world.) According to this IMF study, the top 15 languages can grant access to countries that make up more than 90% of GWP. The study shows that the top 5 business languages of the world are as follows:

Table: Top Business Languages by Percentage of GWP – Source IMF 2008

RankLanguageGDP(in $US Billions)% of GWPCumulative% of GWP
1English$ 21,27634.9%34.9%
2Japanese$ 4,9118.1%43.0%
3Simplified Chinese$ 4,5097.4%50.4%
4German$ 4,3937.2%57.6%
5Spanish$ 4,1706.8%64.5%

Now in 2013 Common Sense Advisory have provided a new empirical study based on a World Online Wallet (WOW) – defined as ‘the total economic opportunity, both online and offline, calculated by associating a share of a country’s GDP to all major blocks of that society.’ So the calculation is not quite the same the 2008 IMF study but it is fascinating to put the two studies together. The Common Sense Advisory work has the following as the top 5 business languages of the world:

Table: Top Business Languages by Percentage of WOW – Source Common Sense Advisory 2013

RankLanguageWOW (US$B)% of WOWCumulative% of WOW
1English$ 16,19335.9%35.9%
2Japanese$ 4,74410.5%46.4%
3German$ 3,4677.7%54.1%
4Spanish$ 3,4477.6%61.7%
5Simplified Chinese$ 3,2147.1%68.8%

So despite the passage of time and (imprecision of and) difference in calculation methods, English holds remarkably steady at around 35% i.e. 35% of business in the world is done in English. Around 65% of business is conducted in one of the top 5 languages.

Look out for an updated version of our web page for deeper analysis. CSA’s report can be purchased in full from their web site. Comments would be very welcome – do you think that we are making a valid comparison between these 2 studies?

Categories: Industry News

View other blog posts from: Nov2013