The Oban Blog

Languages Spoken by Internet Users

Which languages do the Internet users speak most often? What’s the secret to the multilingual success online?

Looking at the Internet World Stats we can see that English and Chinese now make up half of all languages spoken by the online community. Compared to the data from 2004, the proportion of English speakers has shrunk from 35% to the current 27%. On the other hand, the growth in the number of Chinese speaking internet users has been one of the most dramatic and has jumped from 106 million in Oct 2004 to 445 million in June 2010. Seeing that provision of Internet access in China is still growing at a staggering pace with current Internet penetration rate at a ‘mere’ 32%, it is quite possible that Chinese will take over as the No. 1 Language of Internet users in the next few years.

The two other rising stars are Arabic (65 million speakers online) and Russian (60 million speakers). Their rate of growth between the years 2000-2010 surpassed even that of China and there is still plenty space for further increases. Russia has been one of the fastest growing Internet access regions in the world and currently has reached the penetration level of 42.8%. Similar trends are also under way in Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria and UAE and other predominantly Arabic speaking countries.

Notably absent from the list is Hindi – the official language of India. There are currently 81 million Internet users in India, however English is so widely used here that this group is usually included in the English speaking population.

While the above numbers illustrate the scale of language distribution amongst Internet users, they are obviously not exact or definitive. Tallying up such data is complicated, and for simplification purposes the authors of the above statistics did not take into account bilingualism or multilingualism of users. Nevertheless, what it does show is that by translating your website into 9 languages you could be reaching 82% of the internet users worldwide. Now, here’s a thought!