Most useful languages for international trade between EU countries and the world

Monday, March 29, 2010

This morning I came across the following chart:

It's a list of the top trading partners with the EU, combining both imports and exports. It's from a Korean site which is why Korea is highlighted there in eighth place.

Now let's take the numbers and turn them into languages, so that we can combine countries that speak the same language in order to see if that results in more importance for the language than would otherwise be apparent. I've done this in a less than systematic (but more intuitive IMO) way, based on which languages are likely to be useful as opposed to just used. India for example gets split halfway between English and Hindi, as the former is likely to be used most between the EU and India but knowing Hindi is still a definite advantage a company dealing with the country would not want to be without. Two thirds of Canada goes to the English column and one third to French, and Belarus goes all to the Russian column since Belorussian is both too similar to Russian and spoken by too few to make it likely for international trade. Norway was a tough decision considering how good Norwegians are at English, but I kept it all there because its GDP per capita is so high that knowing the language is a definite plus for an EU citizen, plus Sweden and Denmark are part of the EU as well. The focus of this chart above all is which languages are useful EU citizens to learn, not necessarily which languages are always used between the EU and other countries. Also keep in mind that no countries within the EU are included here, so the only source for German and Italian was Switzerland (the only non-EU country that uses it), and so German, French, Italian and Spanish look less useful than they actually are as a result.

English 654 000
Chinese 401 000
Russian 325 000
Arabic 248 000
Norwegian 135 000
Japanese 117 000
Turkish 108 000
Spanish 96 000
French 93 000
German 80 000
Portuguese 75 000
Korean 65 000
Indonesian 50 000
Italian 40 000
Ukrainian 30 000
Hindi 30 000
Persian 26 000
Thai 26 000
Croatian 20 000
Serbian 13 000
Vietnamese 12 000
Dutch 7 000
Bengali 6 500
Hebrew 6 000
Kazakh 5 000
Urdu 1 500

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