In 1992, when Florian Coulmas launched his study on the attraction between languages and economies, it confirmed the existing perception that global languages contribute to the internationalization of markets.
In the case of Spanish, the first studies date from the early 2000s and analyzed the language coefficient in each branch of production in order to determine the percentage of GDP. For example, the language coefficient would represent 100% in the education sector. Studies on Spanish and Portuguese do not reach very different conclusions and calculate the value of the language at around 17% of GDP.
Research has been extended to other topics, such as the relevance of languages in economic and social development, the value of networks, the impact on migration or the cultural and creative industries. In the last two decades, the economy of language - and the specific cases of Spanish and Portuguese - has become a field of research that brings together researchers from various fields of knowledge.
One of the most interesting indicators concerns the transaction costs borne by companies when foreign markets are in a different language, calculated between 15% and 22%.
But it is not just the effect of setting up a business in countries of another language: cultural proximity is also an added value, as companies well know. Likewise, cultural and creative industries, in which languages play a significant role, increasingly represent a relevant economic sector, not only for their expression in GDP, but above all for the creation of qualified and young jobs.
Currently, Spanish and Portuguese are languages with 800 million speakers, in markets that span five continents: Africa, America, Asia, Europe, Oceania. These are two languages with an expectation of exponential population growth, which will make them increasingly global.
The Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI) brings together 23 member states in America, Europe and Africa, some of them also member states of the European Union (Andorra, Spain, Portugal) and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (Brazil, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal). We have come to appreciate more and more the bilingual condition of our organization, which have Spanish and Portuguese as official languages, in addition to the value represented by the hundreds of native languages.
Languages are an investment capital in the literal sense and this capital includes the creativity they carry. That is why the language economy is also concerned with the costs and benefits of language policies and the choices that can contribute to avoiding exclusion and segregation.
The digital Forum that we organized on the 2nd of July on the “Language potential in recovering economies. Contributions from Spanish and Portuguese”, Launches the challenge of thinking about the value of both languages and how we can strengthen the routes of markets and languages for the benefit of our peoples. This is the main value of our action, a value that reaches a special relevance at this moment in the Covid-1 pandemic, in which it is important to bet on a different future and put languages on the route of the Economy.