Future online potential for top ten languages on the internet

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Internetworldstats has a chart here that is often referenced when gauging the online presence of languages throughout the world. The chart features the top ten languages on the internet as well as their penetration, meaning the percentage of those using those languages that have access to the internet. Some languages have a high penetration and thus not much left expansion left (German, Japanese) while other languages have a very low penetration and thus much growth left to carry out. I turned the table into a graph that you can see below. The part in red shows the amount of people using the language that have access to the internet, and the grey part above represents the remaining potential for the language - people that speak the language but do not yet have internet access.


One language with a huge amount of potential is French, because of the large French-speaking population in Sub-Saharan Africa. Arabic is another one. Spanish has a large potential but is beginning to make use of it, as Spanish countries on the whole are more developed than French- and Arabic-speaking countries in Africa.

If you rearrange the languages by their potential number of users it then looks like this:


Keep in mind that for the sake of simplicity the numbers here represent only the population of native speakers, so a Korean who happens to be fluent in English or any other language will only count as 1 Korean. English is a language that benefits from an extremely wide L2 speaker pool that languages like Chinese do not have, and Spanish and French also have quite a bit of this too. Brazilians proficient in Spanish for example are expected to increase from the current approximately 5 million to 40 or 50 million in about a decade, and there are many L2 speakers of French throughout Europe (Romania for example) and other parts of the world.

Also, the amount of freedom citizens of a certain country have is also a big deciding factor too. Chinese has a large online presence but when the government of the largest group of speakers is able to completely cut citizens off from the internet when it wants, the online presence of the language suffers as well.


Matt said...

It'd be interesting to see if Hindi ever explodes. It certainly has the potential in numbers. Perhaps as economic clout shifts to the East, the appeal of English will seem less obvious as Indians embrace the idea of using Hindi on the Internet.

Bengali, too, has the potential in numbers, though Bangladesh is quite a bit poorer than India and unlikely to show up on this chart anytime soon.

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