MT – the new Lingua Franca

In Nicholas Ostler’s book, The Last Lingua Franca: The Rise and Fall of World Languages he claims that “In 2050 everyone will be able to speak their own language and everyone else in the World will understand.”[1] Is this vision a glimpse into our future?

Right now, there are 1 million people logging on to the Internet for the first time each day. Fairly soon (in the decade 2020-2030), the whole World will be online.  That’s 6 billion new people accessing the internet to use Social, Shop and Communicate with people around the World.

World Internet users

Today, if businesses localize into 12 languages, they can reach 80% of the World’s online population and if they localize into 13 languages they will reach 90% of the World’s online spending power.[2] This is set to change, and industry experts predict that we are on the verge of a Global language explosion which will see the need for businesses to communicate in as many as 30, 40 and maybe even 50+ languages in order to maintain their competitive edge.

With the rise of a new Global middle class, we will see a dramatic shift in online spending patterns. Africa’s Middle Class is set to double by 2020 and India’s Middle Class will rise from 150m to 600m by 2030. Overall, 2 billion people will join the Global middle class by 2030.[3]

At the same time, we are entering an Era of Convergence. Big Data, the Cloud, the Crowd, mobile and Social will all be connected via the web to Machine Translation (MT) systems. Translation as a service will be combined with other technologies like speech recognition, search and intelligent content.

Automated translation will give a boost to the translation industry, which will be chartered to constantly improve the technology and fill the ‘gaps’ in global communications. Businesses will prosper finding new customers in new markets. Governments and citizens will connect and communicate more easily. Consumers become world-wise talking to everyone everywhere as if language barriers no longer exist.[4]

Translation will become a utility embedded in every app and on every screen to deliver personalised content based on ‘my information, my experiences, my habits, my preferences, and this will be delivered in my language of choice on my device of choice’ (mobile, slate, glasses, surfaces).

This will largely be achieved by the datafication of the translation industry. Language Service Providers will need to work together to create structured language data which will be stored in a lexical cloud to be delivered as a real time service to end users. What is more this language data will be delivered in an increasing variety of ways to the consumer including written, spoken or the consumer’s interactive experience of choice.[5]

I believe MT is evolving to become the new lingua franca. Translation is fast becoming a utility and MT will be at the heart of that. Businesses therefore need to embrace MT. I agree with Jack Welde, CEO of Smartling who said in an interview recently “In a few years either you will be a global company, or you won’t be a company.”[6]

To learn more about Global Content Strategies and MT, please contact Kris directly.


[1] Ostler, Nicholas “The Last Lingua Franca: The Rise and Fall of World Languages” Nov 2011

[2] Common Sense Advisory (

[3] Sargent, Ben “Language Spark Business Success” (

[4] TAUS (http://www

[5] Wagner, Diane “A lexical cloud and its golden lining. Why convergence makes business sense” TAUS 2013

[6] Welde, Jack, (



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