Top Business Languages of the World

The Top 15 Business Languages of the World in 2013

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. It is useful for exporters to know how much business is done in the world in each language. So we are indebted to language industry consultants Common Sense Advisory (CSA) for issuing a report on the top world business languages.

Common Sense Advisory have provided an 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 as the 2008 IMF study further down this page but it is fascinating to put the two studies together. The Common Sense Advisory work has the following as the top 15 business languages of the world:

Table 1: Top Business Languages by Percentage of WOW – Source Common Sense Advisory 2013

RankLanguageGDP(in $US Billions)% of WOWCumulative% of WOW
1English$ 16,19335.8%35.8%
2Japanese$ 4,74410.5%46.3%
3German$ 3,4677.7%54.0%
4Spanish$ 3,4477.6%61.6%
5Simp. Chinese$ 3,2147.1%68.7%
6French$ 2,6996.0%74.7%
7Italian$ 1,2072.7%77.4%
8Portuguese$ 2,1142.5%79.9%
9Arabic$ 1,1022.4%82.3%
10Russian$ 1,0312.3%84.6%
11Dutch$ 9302.1%86.7%
12Korean$ 9242.0%88.7%
13Trad. Chinese$ 5601.2%89.9%
14Swedish$ 4741.1%91.0%
15Norwegian$ 4511.0%92.0%

CSA’s report can be purchased in full from their web site.

The Top 15 Business Languages of the World in 2008

As in interesting comparison, an IMF report was published in 2008 working with the concept of Gross World Product (i.e. GDP – Gross Domestic Product – but for the whole world.) According to the IMF study, the top 15 business languages of the world were as follows:

Table 2: Top 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%
6French$ 3,9516.5%71.0%
7Italian$ 2,4814.1%75.0%
8Russian$ 2,2453.7%78.7%
9Portuguese$ 1,9153.1%81.9%
10Arabic$ 1,9033.1%85.0%
11Dutch$ 1,3862.3%87.3%
12Korean$ 9291.5%88.8%
13Turkish$ 7301.2%90.0%
14Traditional Chinese$ 6071.0%91.0%
15Polish$ 5280.9%91.8%

So despite the passage of time between 2008 and 2013 and the (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. The top 15 languages of the world cover around 90% of business done.

Categories: Industry News

View other blog posts from: Dec2013