The Most Popular Languages for Localization: Alconost’s Statistics
In 2021, we at Alconost published data on the most popular languages for product localization. This year, we're continuing the tradition and publishing the latest stats on the demand for languages to enter foreign markets.
In this review, we look at orders made by Alconost Localization Department customers with English as the source language.
Highlights: 12 Consistently Popular Languages
The 12 most popular target languages for orders that had English as their source language remained the same as last year. French (France), Italian, German, Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (Spain), Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Dutch, Turkish, Polish, Russian are languages that are consistently in demand.
However, the positions of some languages have changed within the most popular ones compared to last year. Korean, German, and Brazilian ranked higher in the top 12, while Spanish, Dutch, and Turkish ranked lower.
The main surprise in the top 5 is Brazilian Portuguese's rise to 4th place and Spanish dropping out of the top four languages.
Top 5 Languages: The Classic Four + Brazilian Portuguese
There is a group of the four most popular languages for localization — not including English, of course — with the acronym FIGS: French, Italian, German, and Spanish. Just like last year, these languages are among our top 5 languages for localization from English.
When localizing software, apps, and games into the "classic four" languages, developers are able to do more than just enter the markets of four countries. Italian, for example, is the official language in three other countries besides Italy, and German is the official language in five countries outside of Germany. Not to mention the prevalence of Spanish, French, and their variants in dozens of countries on both sides of the Atlantic!
We can't forget that translating a product into a particular language and localizing a product for a particular country's market are not the same thing. For example, localization for Spain will not fully meet the expectations of users in Argentina or Mexico. The Spanish language in Latin America has its specifics. You need to adapt the product to the local version of the language in a particular country.
While Spanish's move to fifth place in popularity is a noticeable change in the ranking, it doesn't indicate a global decline in interest in the Spanish language. After all, if we combine the order statistics for all varieties of Spanish (in 2021, we also worked with Spanish for Mexico, the US, Argentina, and Colombia), they would have taken the top spot in our ranking with a share of 8.45%.
If we talk about French, which leads our ranking for the second year in a row now, we mean only the French spoken in France. Note that, for example, Canada, one of the most attractive Francophone countries in terms of marketing, has its own variety of French, and orders for "Canadian French" in our statistics aren't included in the number of French orders for France.
Brazilian Portuguese deserves special attention in the top languages. In 2020, it was the "fifth element" in the ranking, on the heels of the classic four. And in 2021, it moved into fourth place and changed the traditional balance of power.
The following factors, we believe, have influenced the growing popularity of Brazilian Portuguese for localization:
Brazil has the ninth-largest economy in the world.
The country has a high purchasing power.
Smartphone and console games are very popular among Brazilians.
The country has one of the highest download rates in Google Play and the App Store.
Indeed, the Brazilian market looks like a tasty tidbit for developers. Considering that Brazil is a growing market for mobile apps and games, we predict that Brazilian Portuguese has a good chance to settle in the top 5 and to be in demand for localization as much as the most popular European languages.
Japanese, Korean and Chinese are shoulder to shoulder
Just as it was a year ago, Japanese remains the sixth-most-popular language in projects with English as the source language. Although its share among the total number of orders increased by 0.7%, it failed to make it into the top five.
Please note: The statistics we analyze in this article reflect only "English to Japanese" orders. However, there's another side of this moon: translations from Japanese to English and Asian and European languages.
According to our observations, many app developers, from startups to mid-size companies, evaluate the possible impact of localization on ROI efficiency. This potential impact seems to be one of the key factors for specific target languages' selection. As for English, Chinese, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese, I guess they're amongst the most popular target languages for Japanese app development companies because of the number of speakers. Apart from that, the cultural and geographical proximity to Japan can factor in. As far as I can tell, this is one of the reasons why Korean, Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese are also in demand.
Korean is a popular language for localization, and not just among Japanese customers. It ranks seventh in overall popularity among target languages for orders with English as a source. Over the past year, Korean has jumped three lines up in our ranking: in 2020, its share of 4% earned it tenth place, while in 2021, with a share of 5%, it moved straight to seventh place.
It doesn't come as a surprise if you know the situation in the Korean gaming market. The users from this country are among the most willing to pay in the world, and in 2018, one out of every two(!) citizens of South Korea could be considered a gamer. Given the growing worldwide interest in Korean mass culture, the localization of a product into Korean can no longer be considered something exotic.
Of course, developers aren't ignoring China's audience of more than a billion people. Like last year, between translations into Simplified and Traditional Chinese, developers are more likely to choose the former. Simplified Chinese is eighth in our ranking, just as it was last year.
By the way, if we combined all the varieties of Chinese that we translated from English in 2021 — Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and the Hong Kong dialect — their share would be 7.3% in total. In this case, translations from English into all varieties of Chinese would be second on our list after French.
Places 9-12 and below: What other local markets are popular for localizations
Oddly enough, the 2021 statistics show that the languages of three Asian countries — Japan, Korea, and China — are ranked next to each other. A year earlier, Dutch stood between Japanese and Simplified Chinese. Now, it's moved from 7th to 9th place.
The year before, Turkish was ninth, wedged between Simplified Chinese and Korean. This year, Turkish is tenth, but note that this language has been one of the stable areas for localization from English for several years now. Developers' interest in it can be explained by the fact that the Turkish game market is considered the most developed among Middle Eastern and North African countries. The presence of localization significantly increases the chances of a product's acceptance among users from Turkey.
Places 11 and 12, as in 2020, are reserved for Polish and Russian, respectively. The gap between them slightly narrowed over the year. The share of Polish decreased by 0.1%, and the percentage of Russian increased by 0.2%.
Places 13 through 17, in decreasing order of share, are occupied by European Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, Arabic, Mexican Spanish, and Thai. The shares of orders for these languages range from 2.3% to 2%.
Among the languages gaining popularity specifically for game localization, we'd like to mention Hindi. In 2021, the English-Hindi language pair accounted for 1.3% of orders. We'll see how the situation changes a year from now.
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