The languages of the future

January 4, 2016
The languages of the future

The five most widely spoken languages in the world are currently Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic, based on first-language speaker numbers. But what about the languages of the future? What should our children be learning in school if they are to understand the world and be understood themselves in the future? 

The five most spoken languages of the future

The answer is simple – the five most spoken languages by 2050, according to the engco model of language forecasting, will be… exactly the same as they are now! So Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic will remain top of the agenda so far as global language learning is concerned. 

Why certain languages dominate the world

There are various reasons behind the ongoing dominance of these top five languages. A vast domestic population naturally helps, but ancient trade and exploration routes, political dealings, modern commerce and the internet have all played their role in cementing the position of Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic as the most important languages on the planet for those looking to be a part of the modern international community. 

Planning for the future

According to PWC, the size of the world economy will nearly triple by 2050, with China and India taking the positions of the world’s largest and second largest economies and the US falling back into third place. Mexico is also tipped to shoot up the rankings, from its current 11th place to sixth place in 2050. The first Arabic-speaking country in the 2050 ranking is Saudi Arabia, in 12th place (it currently sits in 14th position). 

Other languages will rise and fall over the coming years. Many southern Europeans are currently learning German, with a view to taking advantage of that country’s strong economy to boost their employment prospects. But so far as the front-runners are concerned, it is Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic that our children need to learn as their priorities, if they are to participate in the world at a truly international level in the future. 

Final thoughts

Are you surprised to learn that the languages of the future will still be those that are most widely spoken today? Are there any other languages that you would have expected to dominate by 2050? Share your thoughts via the comments. 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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