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Profitable Languages – Six Key Issues to Consider

Profitable Languages – Six Key Issues to Consider

With 920 million native speakers, Mandarin Chinese is often a top consideration as a target market for sales of new products. English has fewer than half that many native speakers, but that’s still an enormous population, and one known for its high level of imports. Hindi, Spanish, and Arabic have hundreds of millions of speakers, too, as do several other languages. So it might seem that these languages are top choices to prepare your product for.

Sure, growing countries with large populations may conjure up visions of successful expansion. From the perspective of language usage and growth, four languages often listed as good business prospects for English-based companies are Russian, Arabic, Portuguese, and Mandarin. These are all languages with growing numbers of speakers, broad use in multiple countries, and very large populations of native speakers.

However, is it true that all of these languages are actually good prospective target markets for your specific product? It’s easy to imagine the largest markets might support sales of every type of service and product. But in reality, population size does not by itself define the size of the potential customer base in any given country or language. In fact, simple population size proves to be one of the smaller influences.

The more precise truth is that the most profitable languages for your company to invest in will depend on factors unique to your company and product. A closer look is required, and the following questions are good issues to investigate:

1. What similar products does the market you’re considering show an interest in or compelling use for?
2. What are the transport costs between the potential target country and your production country?
3. Are there companies from other countries already providing the service or product you offer, and if so why? what are their strengths versus yours?
4. If your sales depend on online service and interaction, have you considered the issue of Internet access in your target country? (China, Iran, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and a dozen others impose severe Internet restrictions.)
5. How stable are the government and legal system where this language is spoken?
6. What is the statistical Economic Fitness* of the countries where your target language is a major language?

Long-term GDP forecasts are useful to consider when you’re contemplating language localization. A recently developed methodology for this is called Economic Fitness.* This predictive profile of a country takes into consideration its industrial diversification and complexity, along with the ways in which dynamic factors might cause conditions to shift. Detailed information is available at databank.Worldbank.org.

In conclusion, as you do your research into which languages it would be most profitable for your company to translate your website and other materials into, look closely at various trade and economic data. Online sales of products and services are expanding all around the world. But every country is different, year-to-year, when it comes to its economic environment and its relationship with international trade.

When you’re satisfied with your data and ready to localize for the languages you feel will be most profitable for your particular product, country of origin, and target country, Skrivanek’s localization teams possess the expertise to help you. Our understanding of the nuanced characteristics of your target language and culture are the final tools you need to reach the right audience with customized communication that will lead to sales.


J. V. McShulskis

* The Economic Fitness methodology is a quantitative, scientific, multidisciplinary macroeconomics model applied by the World Bank and the European Commission for studies on the industrial and technological development of countries.



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