Why Translation is Important In A World Where English is Everywhere

In a world where English is everywhere, is translation still important? Is it even necessary?

English is the third most widely-spoken language in terms of native speakers, of which it has at least 330 million. But if you count the people who speak it as a second language, it’s the most popular language in the world. So, why is translation so important? Here are 5 reasons why translation is important and will remain so, despite the growing ubiquity of English.

Translation is Important Because Not Everyone Speaks English

Sure, English is the most commonly spoken language. But that doesn’t mean you can overlook all the people who don’t speak it! Even England is home to significant populations of foreign and minority language speakers. 

And just because a person can speak some English, that doesn’t mean they can speak it well enough to cope in all situations. For example, a 2012 survey from the European Commission found that only a quarter of Europeans were able to understand English well enough to follow an English-language news broadcast. Holding a basic conversation is one thing. Easy and effective communication is another.

Translation is Important Because People Prefer Their Native Language

English is the most-widely spoken language. But, that’s only if you take second-language speakers into account. And therein lies the rub.  Almost without exception, people respond better to the language they grew up speaking.

To effectively sell to people, it’s not enough to speak a language that they understand (especially if their understanding is limited). You must speak to them in the language their heart speaks.

Dale Carnegie may have been right when he said “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” But the next sweetest sound is their native language. Babies as young as 5 months old have been shown to recognize and prefer it.

Adults prefer it, too. A study from Common Sense Advisory found that  75% of customers  “prefer to buy products in their native language.” And a study from  Indian market research company JuxtConsult  found that “almost three-quarters [of Indian consumers] prefer and seek out content in their first languages.”

 Translation Connects the Global Economy

There’s a reason demand for translation services is booming. While English has been periodically crowned as “the language of global business,” translation and interpreting services remain a vital part of doing business around the world.

For example, as of November 2015, 880,000 British small businesses were expected to expand overseas by 2025. It will be interesting to see how Brexit will affect those plans. But it’s unlikely that the need for translation services will suffer too much. As Clare noted in her post on how Brexit might affect international packaging regulations,

“International growth is still key to increased revenues and profitability and companies will always seek to trade with overseas markets.  Products launched beyond home borders will still need to meet the relevant packaging and labelling standards …”

And that means they’ll still need to be translated.

Emerging Markets Mean Emerging Languages

English may be on top of the world now, but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever. Other languages are growing in importance as developing countries take their places in the global economy and more of their citizens gain Internet access.  For example, most of the world’s web content used to be in English. That is no longer the case.  And remember, even people who speak English as a second language generally prefer to read, watch and shop in their first language.

Want to know which languages matter most right now? Check out our visualisation of the world’s most influential languages.

And what about the future? Check our list of top languages to learn. It showcases the languages English will most likely share the stage with in years to come.

Translation Spreads Ideas and Information

What’s the number one reason translation is so important?  It allows ideas and information to spread across cultures.  In the process, translation changes history.

Need some examples? Consider the following:

  • Arabic translators kept the ideas of ancient Greek philosophers alive throughout the Middle Ages.
  • The Bible has been translated into at least 531 languages. No matter what you believe, the impact on history is undeniable.
  • Translation is helping sports teams and organisations overcome language barriers and transcend international boundaries.
  • TEDTalks’ OpenTranslation project makes the talks understandable to people around the world.

There’s no denying the power of the English language. That said, the Tower of Babel isn’t coming down anytime soon. Translation is important, and will remain so for both individuals and businesses in the foreseeable future.

When translating for your business, it’s important to get it right the first time. Choose qualified human translators to ensure your outreach efforts don’t end up a word salad. Our translation services will help you communicate with your customers in the languages they prefer to use, and our transcreation and localisation services will ensure your message stays relatable and effective worldwide.

10 replies
  1. Angela Kyolaba
    Angela Kyolaba says:

    I agree translation is a very important aspect in society that is being highly recognised in this advanced, technology leaning era of the 21st century. About people who speak English as their second language preferring to read things in their own language may differ though, depending on where one comes from. For example in some former British colonies like Uganda, the literate bunch find it easier to read or search for materials in English as opposed to their native languages. This might be because the country has more than 50 native languages and therefore almost all educational lessons and instructions are carried in schools are carried out in English. This means that one may grow up speaking their native language, but can hardly write or easily read it as they do for the English language.

  2. Richard Nkurunziza
    Richard Nkurunziza says:

    I personally agree that translation is very important because it goes hand in hand with communication.People from different countries will keep communicating using translators.
    If earth will take its end,translation also will desappear but if not it will remain.
    Thank you.

  3. Ruta
    Ruta says:

    Thanks for your help also I’m interested to this relating with my topic which is Importance of Translation from my own language to English language. I’m very thankful to this for making my IA very easy.

  4. Taylor Bishop
    Taylor Bishop says:

    I just wanted to thank you for explaining the importance of translation. I really appreciate that you mentioned that speaking the language that is important to people is a great way to effectively sell to them. Not only that, but I think it really shows your respect for them, and could even make them feel comfortable in a partnership.

  5. Alexey Smirnov
    Alexey Smirnov says:

    Translation is indeed very important. Finding a right translator for your ideas, concepts, messages, etc. is a key for your success in a foreign market. But it’s not so easy as it might seem. There are many factors to be considered.

  6. gladie nicky
    gladie nicky says:

    what i can comment here is that, for sure translation is very crucial not only in world business but also to us learners especially linguists cause someone may be able to understand a certain language but not in all aspects so through translation and interpretation it diverge our ideas and make us to understand something deeply


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