Language barriers exist everywhere.
No business, big or small, is free of them.
No government, either.
A small trip down memory lane through U.S. history will recall the time President Jimmy Carter spoke to a Poland-speaking audience in 1976. He began his speech with “When I left the United States this morning…”
What did the audience hear via an interpreter?
“When I abandoned the United States…”
Such snafus can easily be avoided by businesses (and governments) across the globe thanks to the increasing use of video remote interpretation services. There are nearly seven thousand languages spoken the world over.
Do you know which languages your company should prioritize?
Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
Read on for the 10 top languages that interpretation services can anticipate to be in high demand (especially for video remote interpretation services).
Did you know that arabic is actually the U.S.’ fastest growing language? It’s true!
Additionally, there are more than 400 million Arabic speakers worldwide. And for many, Arabic is the only language they speak. In the U.S., two-thirds of the Arabic speaking population is concentrated in 10 states, according to the Arab American Institute. However, one-third of the total population of that group is actually only located in three states: Michigan, New York and California. The rest of that majority can be found in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, Texas and New Jersey.
Chinese is also among the top interpretation languages with a growing need.
At more than a billion native speakers, Chinese is undoubtedly the most spoken language.
Across the U.S., the need for Chinese language support services is growing along with its use.
As China has solidified itself as a global economic superpower, it has become one of the most in-demand interpretation languages. This is, in part, due to the fact that a number of Chinese speakers who have relocated to the U.S. don’t have a strong grasp of English. This is why when it comes to business, health and many other professions, Chinese Mandarin interpretation services can be quite lucrative. Though English is currently the established language of the Internet, some experts predict Chinese may surpass English in the future. While there are Mandarin Chinese speaking communities across the U.S., the highest populations are in New York and California. Additionally, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and New Jersey have large need for interpretation services for Mandarin. In 2018, Tencent’s simultaneous translation system made a less-than-stellar debut at a high-profile forum in Asia known as Davos. Rather than interpreting what was being said during the event, the AI responded with nonsense that included random characters, repeated words and broken Chinese. Definitely not the outcome you want at any major event you may need to be interpreted at, but especially not if you’re revealing this kind of technology to the world.
Interpretation services for the win.
Another of the top 10 languages for interpreting worldwide is Spanish, with around 400 million speakers. It’s also one of the U.S.’ fastest growing languages. At nearly 40 million Spanish speakers in the U.S., there are more Spanish speakers in the United States than in Spain! Additionally, that number is expected to double over the next 30 years. In all but four U.S. states, Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language. This is why it’s always a good idea to offer Spanish interpreting services.
Mistaken interpretation had terrible consequences for one two-year-old girl. She was brought to the hospital by her family with a clavicle fracture. In the absence of a qualified interpreter, her family told a medical resident who spoke some Spanish, “se pegó.” The medical resident interpreted it as “someone hit her.” However, they were saying “she hit herself” when she fell off her tricycle. This mistaken interpretation lead to the young girl being wrongly placed into child protective services.
After Chinese and English, Urdu is the third most widely spoken language across the globe. It’s also one of the faster growing languages in the U.S. Though the population of Urdu speakers in the U.S. sits at 400,000 now, that number is expected to significantly rise over the next 20-30 years.
The largest concentration of Urdu speakers can be found on the East Coast in New York and New Jersey. However, there are also burgeoning communities in Texas and Virginia.
French, the language of love and romance, is an important language when it comes to international business and commerce and has more than 220 million speakers worldwide. Large French speaking populations exist in New York, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Texas and is the second most common language in Vermont and Maine. To further understand the importance of a good French interpreter, look no further than the phrase “tu es bonne.” While you may have simply wanted to congratulate a new female business partner, the phrase is sometimes interpreted as “you are good … in bed.”
It’s easy to see why interpretation services are the better option than whatever problems that mishap would cause.
There are more than 215 million (and growing) Portuguese speakers worldwide and it’s the predominant language in Portugal, Brazil and handful of countries in Africa. In the U.S., the East Coast sees the majority of Portuguese speakers. In Massachusetts alone there are nearly 100,000 speakers. New Jersey, Florida and Connecticut also have growing populations.
There are about 150 million native Russian speakers worldwide and it is spoken across Central and Eastern Europe and obviously Russia. The numbers show that there is a growth potential for interpreting services in Russia. There are Russian speakers across the U.S., with large populations in New Jersey, Washington, Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Like many languages, the largest communities exist in New York and California. There are 200,00 Russian speakers combined between the two.
There are more than 260 million native Hindi speakers, found mostly in India and the Indian subcontinent. There is no doubt a need for video remote interpretation services for the Hindi speaking population with a high demand for these services in the U.S. The majority can be found in California, with large communities in Texas, New Jersey and Illinois.
You will find Hmong being spoken by the people of Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and some parts of China, especially in the Guangxi and Sichuan regions. Hmong is spoken by 2.7 million people worldwide and one-third of those speakers are Hmong Americans. Like many others in this list of the top 10 languages in demand of video remote interpretation services, the Hmong speaking population is one of the fastest growing in the U.S. There are nearly 35,000 Hmong speakers in California, with large groups in Wisconsin and Minnesota as well. It’s important to consider the life-altering mistakes that can come from poor interpretation.
Lia Lee was a young Hmong girl in California whose parents had limited English speaking skills. Her parents had difficulty communicating that their daughter was epileptic and tried to inform doctors of the traditional care she was receiving at home in accordance to their cultural customs. The doctors diagnosed her with pneumonia, rather than identifying the problem. Due to her parents not grasping the issue at hand, they failed to properly treat their daughter. This resulted in Lia having a grand mal seizure just before her fifth birthday that left her in a vegetative state for the rest of her life.
Rounding out the top 10 interpretation languages is Japanese. There are 500,000 Japanese speakers in the U.S. The majority of those speakers can be found in California, with thriving communities in Washington and Hawaii as well. Sometimes, poor interpretation can change the world. When the Potsdam Declaration was issued by Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Harry S. Truman in July of 1945, the message was clear. Japan must surrender unconditionally or accept the consequences. The Japanese Prime Minister, on behalf of his Cabinet, responded with “Mokusatsu.” This can is translated as “we are considering it.” However, it can also be interpreted as “we are ignoring it.” An interpreter used the latter in an English interpretation that got back to the Allies, who responded in kind by dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The stakes are likely not so high for your business, but this example is probably the biggest ever interpretation error.
Supporting 10 Top Languages for Interpreting
We’ve seen that poor interpretation can have some funny outcomes, but also some very serious ones. It’s easy to see why businesses wouldn’t want to gamble with their interpretation needs.
Now that you’ve got a better understanding of 10 top interpretation languages that are in a high demand for video remote interpretation services, and what areas of the country they are needed in, you can make a more educated plan in regards to your career.
Do you have a funny interpretation story you want to tell us? Share them in the comments below!