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Ranking of the importance of languages according to economic power
Which foreign languages are particularly worth learning with regard to your own professional future prospects - apart from English? To find out, the Steinke Institute converted the gross national product of all countries in the world, extrapolated to the year 2025 (using conservative growth forecasts), into the languages concerned. The meaningfulness of the ranking list determined in this way is limited by a few factors (uncertainty with regard to the growth forecast, lack of consideration of the foreign language skills of the speakers of the respective target languages, lack of respective weighting with regard to the location of those interested in foreign languages), but the Steinke language index offers valuable pointers for which languages you should pay particular attention to in future with regard to personal career planning.
The number of points used for the ranking is the sum of the gross national product in billions of US dollars projected for 2025. In the case of polylingual countries (e.g. Belgium, Switzerland, Canada), the GNP was divided according to the proportion of the population of the respective language groups; In countries with a dominant commercial or official language that is not an indigenous national language (e.g. English in India, French in the Maghreb states, Urdu in Pakistan), the GNP was split halfway between the commercial or official language and the indigenous national language (s) ( n) split.
There is a considerable discrepancy between the economic importance of a language determined in this way and its number of speakers - the latter is given in the table below for the years 2005 as well as projecting the corresponding population growth until 2025. This discrepancy is due, on the one hand, to differences in the level of economic development of the countries, which will not yet be leveled out by the increasing global interdependence of the world economy in 2025, and, on the other hand, to differences in the status of languages, which is especially true of multilingual countries with a dominant commercial or official language (see above). In India there is an abundance of national languages with tens of millions of speakers (e.g. Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu), but their importance as a business and trade language does not correspond to the respective GNP share of the country and is therefore despite its large proportion Number of speakers only occupy lower ranking positions.
The most important results of the Steinke Language Index include the following: As expected, English will be by far the most important foreign language in the long term, without which a professional career would seem almost unthinkable. Chinese, which was still in 6th place in 2005, will be the second most important business language in the world in 2025, but China's growth dynamic will decrease significantly due to extreme outgrowth as a result of the one-child policy. Assuming moderate economic development in Latin America, Spanish will increase in importance, placing German and French in fifth and sixth place. Korean will catch up in the top ten of the top ten languages. Hindi will rapidly gain importance as the dominant of the many official languages in fast-growing India. And Turkish, Indonesian, Polish and Persian should definitely not be ignored if you are toying with a new foreign language due to the dynamic economic growth in the countries concerned.
Of course, this ranking does not say anything about the value of a language, it simply reflects the potential professional and economic benefits that can be derived from learning it. Of course, there can be very individual reasons why someone thinks Basque, Udmurt or Guaraní are much more important than Spanish or Chinese. A separate index specially tailored to Germany, the Steinke Foreign Trade Language Index, takes the volume of foreign trade as a basis and is therefore an indicator of which languages can be of particular importance to German citizens.
|Steinke Language Index (as of 02/21/2007)|
© David Schah, Steinke Institute. Please use the table only when linked to www.steinke-institut.de.
Data sources: World Bank, UN, Fischer-Weltalmanach 2007
A printer-friendly table in PDF format can be found here.
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