English is no longer the language of innovation
This is a re-post of an article my colleague Dino Mustafic wrote for Text United.
An important part of the living standards rise is innovation; it has been that way since the Industrial Revolution. Nowadays, innovation is a major factor to determine competitiveness and national progress.
So what nations and what languages play major role in innovation?
Media giant Bloomberg in January published results of its research about the world’s 50 most innovative economies. It showed that South Korea, Japan, Germany, USA and Sweden are countries that invest most in inventions and developing new technologies.
How does this relate to the importance of languages?
Well, the most important languages in the world are not necessarily those spoken by most of the people (Hindi/Urdu, Mandarin). It is rather the languages of economic powers that have as a result significant influence in the realms of business and trade.
In politics, official UN languages are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Why not Japanese, Korean or German?
The world’s richest countries are those that exploit hydrocarbons, among which are some Middle Eastern countries, USA, Russia, UK, Netherlands, Norway, North African countries, Italy, Norway, Brazil and others.
However, when it comes to technology and innovation, Japan, South Korea, and Germany are among world’s most developed countries that can boast with the newest technological achievements and highly developed robotics. And you will find that these countries and their companies are highly connected with those that exploit most of oil.
Let’s take an example in shipping industry and how a language of an important economy becomes an important language.
South Korea is the world’s leader in shipbuilding industry and one of the leaders in fabricating heavy machinery. Hyundai Heavy Industries is the world’s largest shipbuilder, specialized in building and constructing offshore oil and gas platforms and offshore drilling rigs.
An example of how innovation really improved parts of both industries; oil and gas, and shipping, was seen in 2015 after a sharp decline in crude oil prices. That required oil and gas service providing companies focused on offshore exploring and producing to find new solutions to cut costs in oil production which was done by — besides cutting jobs — finding ways to cut costs for rigs building. South Korea’s major rig builders Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) have teamed up in a Joint Industry Project, looking to cut rig construction costs and project delays. The three companies held a meeting for an “Offshore Design Standardization JIP” with American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) at Houston, Texas. In the heart of USA’s oil and gas industry, Korean language makes a name for itself.
Speaking of oil and gas and cost cutting innovations, Norway also saw a huge money savior installed at their seafloor in 2015. Lead by the country’s oil and gas major Statoil, the group of companies operating Asgard oil and gas field in the Norwegian Sea installed the world’s first subsea gas compressor. It was a huge innovation in offshore oil and gas industry. The nation’s leading company Statoil worked in collaboration with European companies to develop the huge gas compressor, first of its kind. It was a major milestone of subsea technology that opened new opportunities in deep waters, and in areas far from shore. As it has been said by the Statoil, subsea gas compression is the technology for the future.
Let’s introduce German language into this Norwegian story now and see now how it compares to some other European languages. The oil companies with a stake in the Asgard offshore field are subsidiaries of French company Total, Texas-based ExxonMobil as well as of Italian oil and gas major Eni. However, Germany is one of the leading nations in innovation, as seen in the Bloomberg’s research, and this multibillion dollar project couldn’t have gone without German technology.
The German company “involved” in the Asgard oilfield project was MAN Diesel & Turbo SE. It was actually responsible for the very construction of the gigantic subsea piece of technology. The company itself is a multinational company based in Augsburg, Germany that produces large-bore diesel engines and turbo machinery for marine and stationary applications, as marine propulsion systems, power plant applications and turbochargers. It is one of the world’s largest in this business, along with the UK’s Rolls-Royce Marine. By the way, Rolls-Royce is also a leading producer of aircraft motors, besides being a leader in marine industry.
Speaking of the importance of German language in terms of technology, we should know that Germany is among leaders in health care technology, automotive industry, aerospace engineering and automotive engineering.
To back this statement, we checked with Germany Trade & Invest according to which Germany saw an increasing worldwide demand for exporting its medical products. The export rate was around 68% in 2014. According to data from GTI, Germany’s medical technology market is Europe’s largest and the world’s third-largest. German companies dealing with medical technology are regarded as leaders of innovation on the world market. In 2014 alone, the German industry filed 1,318 patents and with that resembles the leading nation in Europe, ahead of France with 741 and the Netherlands with 471 applications.
German chemical and pharmaceutical industry is the largest European chemical and pharmaceutical industry as well as being the fourth-largest worldwide, behind USA, China, and Japan, with France being close follower at fifth place.
Sweden is one of the top five countries investing in innovation.
Besides being a leader exporting forest and iron and steel, Sweden has a wide specter of innovation related to nautical technology, and marine technology with it. The engineering industry is the largest manufacturing industry in Sweden. The industry has a very high technological level. Swedish engineering companies like SKF, ABB and Ericsson and inventions like the ball bearing have given Sweden a good worldwide reputation in this sector. Besides, Sweden is among top five countries in Research and Development Volvo and SAAB are well-known companies in automotive and airplane fields and produce both cars and trucks under various brand names. SAAB is also a producer of commercial and military airplanes.
Swedish inventors are responsible for taking GPS technology a step further by creating automatic identification systems which is now being used in the shipping industry for tracking vessels and monitoring marine traffic. Sweden is among top five countries in Research & Development, besides South Korea, Israel, Finland, and Japan.
As for the English language in terms of innovation and technology…
…well the USA and the UK are among world’s leaders in oil and gas industry, shipbuilding, military technology, trade, heavy machinery, medical equipment. The USA is the leader in pharmaceutical industry and the leader in space technology. Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft are all American companies, and combined they absolutely dominate the global technological innovation. The US is a leader with High-Tech companies, followed by China, Japan, South Korea and Canada.
Top five manufacturing countries, according to Bloomberg, are Switzerland, Ireland, Singapore, Germany and Austria. Do notice that German language is spoken in three of those countries.
Korean is recurring as a language used in most of the categories of Bloomberg’s research connected with innovation. South Korea leads the world as a country with most patents, followed by Japan, China, USA and of course Germany.
In the end, we can say that the most important language for innovation and technology is German — being spoken in three of top 15 innovative countries, and Korean. Next important, without a particular order, but based on the fact that they are spoken in leading innovative countries, are Korean and Japanese, then French and Italian as languages spoken in two of the top 25 most innovative countries, Swedish and Finish, and obviously Russian and English.
Which languages to internationalize to?
The combination of a country’s innovative wealth and economic influence for having its language recognized as an important language can be seen in an interesting example of the word “robot” and the robot itself.
The first electronic machine itself was created in England, and the company that today makes the most developed robots is in Japan (Honda). However, the word for the machine is Slavic, and it is pronounced the same way in the whole world: robot.
Fun fact: the word “robot” itself was “invented” by a Czech writer, Karel Čapek, as he named his humanoid artificial workers in one of his plays. He first named them laboři, a Latin word for a worker. However, he didn’t like how it sounded. Slavic languages have a word that varys from “rabota, robota, to roboti” and similar, which describe work, hard work, or slavery work. Karel’s brother suggested to name the workers in the play “roboti”.
The idea was Slavic, Czech to be more precise, but the lack of the country’s economic and political potential made it unknown.
It might be a surprise that in the latest list of the world’s 50 most innovative economies, Slavic countries Poland, Slovenia, Check Republic, Croatia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Serbia are leading the table with Patent activity.
According to Bloomberg, Patent activity is calculated by resident patent fillings per million population, and per $100 billion GDP. However, leading innovative economies are those who invest more in development of those ideas, and those countries are South Korea, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Finland, USA, Denmark, and France. The first five countries together have Patent activity index of 19, while Poland alone has 21, the least of Slavic language speaking countries listed. Serbia’s Patent activity index is 46, behind only Tunisia (50) among those listed in the Bloomberg’s table.
And by the way…
Have you heard of Australian hard rock band NS/IS?
Alternate Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC) have these English abbreviations recognized in the whole world, but surely because Tesla’s patented it in an English speaking country. The famous Australian hard rock band could have been NS/IS (Naizmjenična Struja/Istosmjerna Struja) if Tesla had stayed in the Balkans.