Dutch came in a surprising third, edging out Spanish in 2016, according to One Hour Translation.

Operators of English-language e-commerce sites most often translated their web content into French and German in 2016, says translation services provider One Hour Translation. A surprise third-place finisher was Dutch, which came in ahead of Spanish, the world’s second most-spoken language. Spanish took third place a year ago.

The world’s leading language in terms of native speakers is Chinese, which includes two major variations, the simplified version of Chinese spoken in mainland China, and the traditional version that is the written language of Taiwan and Hong Kong. Simplified Chinese Mandarin edged up one spot to 15th this year in One Hour Translation’s study, while traditional Chinese Mandarin was 16th in 2016, after holding the 24th spot last year.

One Hour Translation based the analysis on 4,000 translation projects it took on during 2015 and the first 11 months of 2016.

“The fact that the French and German markets top the priorities of global e-commerce players immediately below the English-speaking markets is not surprising, since Germany and France are the strongest economies in continental Europe,” says Yaron Kaufman, co-founder and chief marketing officer of One Hour Translation. “French and German are also spoken in other strong economies, such as Canada, Switzerland and Austria. Dutch came third as a target language in 2016, compared to No. 4 in 2015, and this strengthening demonstrates the resilience of the economy and purchasing power of the Netherlands compared to other European countries.”

Many top North American online retailers ship to the leading markets in Europe, although not all provide translation into those European languages. Among the Top 1000 online retailers in North America, 406 ship to France, 405 to the Netherlands, 404 to Germany and Spain, and 400 to Italy, according to Top500Guide.com. Even more ship to English-speaking nations: 548 ship to Canada, 421 to the United Kingdom and 415 to Australia.


Of the Top 1000 e-retailers in North America, 397 ship to Japan, and more of them likely are translating their sites for those shoppers, as Japanese moved up to 6th in the 2016 survey from 10th last year, One Hour Translation says. “This development demonstrates that e-commerce players are also targeting the significant purchasing power of consumers in Japan,” Kaufman says.

Of the e-commerce translation projects One Hour Translation took on in 2016, 13.5% were translating English-language sites into French and 13.4% into German. That French figure is only for European French, as One Hour Translation has a separate category for Canadian French, which did not make it into the top 10 languages in its project list.

One Hour Translation says it charges the same fee for translating from English into any language, with fees starting at 7.9 cents per word on the source site, and going up if special legal or technical expertise is required.

Here are the top 10 languages into which One Hour Translation is handling translation for English-language e-commerce sites, with 2016 percentage of projects listed first, followed by the 2015 percentage:

  • French: 13.5%, 19%
  • German: 13.4%, 17%
  • Dutch: 11.3%, 12%
  • Italian: 10%, 9%
  • Korean: 9.8%, 7%
  • Japanese: 9.3%, 2%
  • Spanish: 9.3%, 15%
  • Polish: 8.5%, 5%
  • Norwegian: 7.8%, 6%
  • Swedish, 7.1%, 8%

Mandarin Chinese is the most-spoken language in the world, with about 1 billion native speakers, including both the simplified and traditional forms, according to language-learning site Babbel.com. Spanish is next at about 400 million native speakers, followed by English at 360 million.