This just in: Foreigners are foreign!

We do a lot of yammering about multilingualism. But some people only believe hard facts. One report provides them.

In a survey:

While many consider English a universal language, even in Sweden and Denmark, countries with a high degree of English proficiency, 64% and 63%, respectively, users prefer their own language.

Curiously, the highest demand for content in one’s native language came from countries with a combination of strong nationalism and maximum differentiation from English orthography: China, Japan, Brazil, Korea. In fact, reading between the lines it becomes obvious that the looser the ties with the United States, the stronger the desire for Web sites not in English.

Meanwhile, a smart article nails down the “business case” for localization:

Assume that 1,000 people per week, based in Germany, visit the website to buy a computer peripheral valued at $200. Our usability testing showed that, with the localised site, 89% would be successful. In contrast, if the localised site did not exist and customers had to use the English site, 64% would be successful. This is a difference of 25%, or in our example, 250 customers. Assume that these customers choose instead to go to a local electronics store to buy their printer.... Let us make the conservative assumption that the client loses 10% of sales due to this effect. These assumptions lead us to estimate that the client would lose 25 customers per week, or in our example a revenue of 25 x $200 = $5,000/week. This scales to $260,000/year. Clearly this value will be magnified significantly if we consider the full range of the client’s products.

It’s pretty simple: Why buy something from a site you cannot completely understand? As we’ve said before, E-commerce content is content. (Heck, even the New York Times admits that.)

Posted on 2001-01-28