Although as many as seven thousand languages exist now around the world, most of them (96%!, to be precise) are spoken by only… 3% of the world population. In order to communicate with the majority of people around the globe, it is enough to know twelve languages. So which languages can be recognized as those that are going to have the greatest impact on our lives in the coming year? Below, we present our subjective list of the top 4 languages used around the world, which are going to have the greatest impact in 2016.
English continues to prevail in the linguistic world of business, culture, science and education. This is bound not to change in the coming years, so it is still worth investing in learning this language. The contemporary lingua franca is the key to effective communication and makes it possible for people all over the world to integrate. This is not only about communicating in English, but also about how this language has become a platform facilitating translation. You cannot find a Bulgarian – Thai translator? No problem – you will easily find translators rendering texts from Bulgarian into English and then from English into Thai. English is thus something more than “just a language” – it is a medium enabling communication also in other languages.
Arabic is spoken by 295 million people worldwide but, given that it is also the language of the Islamic sacred texts, another 1.5 billion Muslims have a close contact with it. Although the Arabic language consists of a number of dialects, differing from each other in terms of the vocabulary and grammar, it is one of the factors which unite the broadly understood Arab world and culture. The Arab expansion and colonization have resulted in the existence of words of Arab origin also in other languages, for example in Spanish, in which there are more than 4 thousand such words.
The ongoing westward migration of people of Arab descent reinforces the influence of this language. In this context, Arabic is increasingly more often used also in the world of politics in the United Nations and the European Union.
3. Mandarin and the languages of Southeast Asia
Chinese (Mandarin) is the official language of the People’s Republic of China. The standard version of this language was developed in the 50s of the 20th century, as a mix of the dialects spoken in China. The growing economic power of the Middle Kingdom has been observed for many years now, so we can expect Mandarin to continue to reinforce its position among the most important languages all over the world. In our ranking, Mandarin is lower than English for one reason: the language of Shakespeare is also the language of the Internet. Due to the popularity enjoyed in China by other Internet platforms and tools (e.g. Weibo instead of Twitter and Baidu instead of Google), Mandarin has less influence than English. Chinese speaking Internet users communicate with each other using mainly the platforms mentioned above. This does not mean, however, that this situation will never change. The year 2016 may bring tremendous changes as far as the Asian part of the Internet is concerned.
As far as economy is concerned, the importance of other Asian languages can be also recognized, namely the languages spoken in those countries in the region, which are dynamically developing and strengthen their position in the continent. After the economic crisis in 1996 – 2000, the countries referred to as “Asian tigers”, i.e. Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines have got back, in the recent years, on a path of economic growth. We can expect that the ability to communicate in the languages of those countries will be increasingly more desirable.
If you wonder now whether you have missed the emergence of some important country in which this language is spoken – don’t worry. Python is currently one of the most popular programming languages. According to the Tiobe Software report, in mere twelve months (data from January 2015 and 2016), Python has moved up from the eighth position to the fifth one in terms of popularity, and we can expect that will make another leap in the ranking positions next year.
Technologies are becoming present in all aspects of our lives. Mobile applications are being used now by virtually everyone – we use them for cooking, doing sports, looking after children, working, playing and learning. We owe such computer support entirely to computer programers who use languages such as Python, Java or C++ on a daily basis. Thus we cannot ignore in this ranking the language which makes our lives easier.