The Multicultural Nature of the Internet

A principal pillar of today’s modern technology-oriented society is the web which seems to be increasing in usage constantly, with 59% of the global population being active Internet users. In other words, more than half the globe use the Internet on a daily basis. Why is this the case? The answer lies in the vast amounts of content that is being developed all the time, in countless areas of knowledge and information. It could be said, that, we are dealing with an interactive library and space where people can exchange ideas, solely, an Internet connection.

Politics, industry, business, scientific research, the news, entertainment, online shopping, social media, and online communication apps (video conference calls etc) and many many more, comprise the Web which started off, at the beginning of the millennium, with 5% of the global population as active users and nowadays it counts more than 59% active Internet users. Two facts that, supposedly, ignited this rapid rise in Internet users’ figures, are social media and, of course, smartphones. Through smartphones, people discovered a new way to communicate and this new means of communication has been an invaluable tool in peoples’ everyday lives. Originally, the Internet was developed to ensure faster and easier communication among government entities and in 1994 it expanded and came to be something that gave an international dimension to our world and managed to serve miscellaneous purposes through communication.

With our focus on the languages that are used online, it would not be surprising to discover that English is the dominant language, since it is the world language and the most prevalent among the others, in different sectors as business and scientific research. Furthermore, another advantage of English is, of course, the fact that it was the language that was used when the Internet firstly appeared, in the United Kingdom and the USA, something that resulted in the majority of the original content being written in English. Nevertheless, as the years passed by and with the coming of new additional users from all around the world, new languages emerged and are here to compete with English. As a result, the need for localization and translation of the content is continuously rising. Nowadays, English comes first with 25.3 %.

According to statistical data by Statista, Chinese comes second, being the most rapidly evolving language in the world. With a population of 1.35 billion people and people of so many other nationalities learning it, it rightfully takes second place with 19.8%.

Next, in the third place, it is Spanish. Spanish numerates 750 million speakers, half of which are native speakers. As the Spanish-speaking community is on the rise and is getting together on the Internet, more companies should start considering the translation of their content into Spanish. Besides, all countries seem to prefer using their native language over English on the Internet, especially when it comes to shopping and searching for services abroad. Spanish amounts to 8%.

In fourth place we have Arabic. With little to no presence on the Internet until a few years ago, Arabic has now entered it. From 37% of the Arab world that had been online until 2013, now more than 168 million Arabs stay connected. The percentage of usage of Arabic is 4.8%.

Next in line are Portuguese, Indonesian and Malay with 4.1%, Japanese with 3%, Russian and French with 2.8%, German with 2.2% and 23.1% seem to speak other languages.

We conclude that every language gains their own ground on the Internet and, consequently, English alone is no longer sufficient. This means that the translation and localization of companies’ websites makes for a great opportunity to reach a broader audience. If, for example, a company aims only at countries like the USA and the United Kingdom, then English is adequate. However, if the targeted audience is broader on an international scale, then the translation to several languages is compulsory.

In the digital world of the Internet, everything is evolving at such a fast pace and everyone must adapt to the changes that modern technological reality brings along.


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