Importance of English as a Global Business Language

English is considered the most widely spoken language worldwide. With approximately 330 to 360 million native English speakers and 1.5 billion total speakers, English is often referred to as a global language.

In the report by Miniwatt Marketing Group, June 2016, “Internet World Users by Language,” English is ranked as the number one language of Internet users with 948,608,782 (26.3%) English speakers online, followed by Chinese at 20.8%. While there is an increasing need for localization and translation services to ensure the accessibility of English digital content in non-English speaking countries, the opposite is also true. It is important for firms in non-Anglophone markets to offer English in order to appeal to the dominant web population.

Although English is spoken by millions of people, it varies greatly. From dialect and cultural references through colloquialisms. As such, English content may need to be culturally adapted for other English-speaking audiences depending on the locale of the intended audience. This adaptation of content is known as transcreation. Welocalize provides more insights into transcreation in the blog post The Phenomenon of Transcreation in Localization.

As global marketers and localization professionals set out to market products and services to English speakers all over the world, here are three factors that impact your global brand’s communication outreach strategy:

One: American and British English

Although American English and British English are mostly mutually intelligible, there are some main differences between the two in terms of grammar, vocabulary and spelling.

Grammar: British English speakers use present perfect tense more than Americans do. (i.e. I’ve already eaten vs. I already ate)

Vocabulary: There are many examples of different words being used for the same thing (i.e. lift vs. elevator, trousers vs. pants). There are also some words that exist in both American and British English, but they may have very different meanings.

Spelling: Some words in British English end with ‘-our’ instead of American English ‘-or’, and ‘-tre’ instead of ‘-ter’. For example, ‘favour’ and ‘favour’, ‘color’ and ‘colour’ and ‘center’ and ‘centre’. Some words in American English are also shorter (i.e. catalogue vs. catalog, programme vs. program). American spellings often use ‘z’ and not ‘s’ in certain words, for example, localization and localisation.

Two: Regional Accents

English accents differ greatly within different countries and within different regions. Attention to accents is very important for audio and video work. Certain accents have positive and negative associations, depending on the product or service. For example, in England, many customer support centers are based in North East, as the region’s predominant Geordie accent is perceived as trusting and gentle.

The most general classifications in America includes General American, Eastern New England English, New York City English, Mid-Atlantic English, Coastal/Lowland Southern English, Inland/Mountain Southern English, Great Lakes English and Upper Midwestern English.

The few main accents from Britain includes the Received Pronunciation, Cockney, Estuary English, West Country, Midlands English, Northern England English, Geordie, Welsh English and Scottish English.

Despite speaking the same language, heavier accents in some regions may become a minor language barrier between English speakers who are used to different accents.

Three: Website Lingua Franca is still English

According to research conducted by Common Sense Advisory, most people prefer to buy in their own language. However, there has been an increasing percentage of consumers, especially millennials, being more tolerant of and visiting English websites, even if English is not their native language. Many modern words and phrases have been developed in English and remain in English, even when used in non-English speaking countries. Certain technology terms (and social media acronyms) remain in English and do not translate. Many young people and students are familiar and accepting of this and therefore do not expect certain words to be translated.

Despite the increase in amount of content and users on the non-English web, a large majority of firms make content on their websites available in English. To ensure the engagement of digital content by a worldwide audience, it is important for organizations to be aware of the demographics of the target audience to determine whether they expect content to be translated or whether they are happy with it remaining in English. For many global organizations, deciding what to translate and what not to translate are two important considerations. You can read more about this topic in the Welocalize blog post: What Not to Translate: Is it ok to Leave Content in the Source Language?

Language enables global businesses to connect with audiences worldwide. With the right localization, translation, transcription, transcreation and interpretation, people are able to communicate across cultural and geographical boundaries. For more information on transcreation of digital marketing, email


Cecilia Tang is a member of the Global Marketing and Sales Support team.