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Translating The Internet

Last year, I was working at an advertising & PR agency, and we had this internal education session that was all about how digital technology is connecting the world. There was this one slide that showed the number of computers in the U.S. 10 years ago, then the number of computers in the U.S. today and it showed the same comparison with China and India.

I remember thinking wow, this is so exciting how the globe is so connected. And, to borrow a few words from today’s NPR story “Bridging the Online Language Barrier,” the internet filled me with the hope of uniting all of humanity.

Until today, when I read this story on npr.com, I never considered the complexities of the internet when it comes to language barriers. (You can read “Bridging the Online Language Barrier” athttp://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2010/04/30/126420060/bridging-the-online-language-barrier-translating-the-internet).

According to this article, the first language on the internet was English. And until very recently, it was the primary language for bloggers. Arabic bloggers, for example, wrote their blogs in English up until very recently because, up until recently, their Arabic-speaking peers did not have access to internet, and their main audience was English-speaking.

With the increasing penetration of more sophisticated and widespread information infrastructure in countries outside of the U.S., bloggers are finally starting to blog in their native language.

As digital marketeers, we need to understand that even though the world may seem more connected, we still need to understand the how language differences may have an effect on the way we reach our target audiences.

The Top Ten Internet Languages are (in millions)

  • English 499,2
  • Chinese 407.7
  • Spanish 139.8
  • Japanese 96.0
  • Portuguese 77.6
  • German 72.3
  • Arabic 60.3
  • French 57
  • Russia 45.3
  • Korean 37.5
  • (all other languages) 309.7

So, as you are developing new websites – keep in mind your audience. And, adjust the language and translations to meet that audience’s needs.

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