Multilingual websites make more sense than ever

In our very first newsletter back in July 2004, we gave you “7 Reasons to Go Multilingual“—seven reasons to globalize your website. Now there are more reasons than ever to consider a multilingual website. So we’ve decided to revisit that topic with the perspective of the past 4 years.

Let’s take a look at those seven reasons with what we know today:

1. If you have a website, you are already a global company

As we pointed out in 2004, once you have a website, anyone can find your products and services online—from the single user with a dialup connection in Africa to the multi-billion corporation in Japan. In the intervening years, internet use on other continents has soared. Between 2000 and 2008, while use in North America rose by an impressive 130%, usage worldwide rose by over 305%. Growth rates have been especially high in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, which combined now account for over 50% of web usage. Your website is accessible to more people around the globe than ever before.

2. English dominance is over, especially on the web

92% of the world’s population speak a language other than English, so it’s not surprising that the use of other languages on the web has grown much faster than the use of English. By 2008, English users accounted for only 30.5% of web usage. Chinese already accounts for over 20% and speakers of other languages account for almost 50% of total usage, with Spanish, French, and Arabic among the top 5 languages used.* (Internet World Stats).

And non-English users now have many more alternatives in their own languages available to them on the web. Non-English language websites—blogs, social networking sites, commercial sites, are springing up everywhere. More important, most non-English speakers now have access to search engines in their own languages. These search engines, in turn, favor websites in the search engine language languages. Reportedly, even if you enter an English term in Google’s Spanish search engine, the engine will give priority position to websites with the equivalent term in Spanish.

3. International trade is booming

In 2003, the World Trade Organization reported that world merchandise exports were over $7 trillion and commercial service exports were $1.8 trillion. By 2007, those numbers had grown to $13.6 trillion and $3.3 trillion.** Growth in trade slowed in 2007 and 2008, but continued steadily. As the dollar declined in value, US exports became more attractive and exports have been growing faster than imports, especially to regions with growing economies such as China and the Middle East. The economic boom in these countries has also meant a boom in demand for goods and services related to infrastructure and construction.

4. Increased global competition

With competition continuing to grow, and the internet steadily expanding its reach in other languages, multilingual websites have become even more important in providing a competitive advantage. If your site isn’t welcoming, users can easily look elsewhere. And, even to English speakers abroad, a multilingual website is a good way to increase your credibility as a truly international player.

5. Non-English markets are set to boom

It’s not just overseas that language is important. Non-English dominant ethnic minorities in the United States are another key target. In 2003, we said, “the purchasing power of the Latino and Asian communities is increasing.” Since that time, the Latino market has become one of the hottest marketing targets in the U.S. That’s no wonder because, according to the Washington Post, Hispanics accounted for almost 50% of US population growth between 2000 and 2005 and, according to Deliver magazine, their consumer spending in the US is predicted to grow to over $1 trillion dollars by 2010.***

6. Clients are not the only thing you’re after

Today, multilingual websites are an even better way to help in locating partners, affiliates, investors, employees, vendors, representatives and suppliers in other countries. More potential partners are available on line than ever before and there are more international opportunities, but there is also more competition for attention. A welcoming web presence can help your business form all sorts of useful connections.

7. It’s good for business

This is still the bottom line. A multilingual website is one of the most cost-effective ways of reaching out to international markets, resulting in new customers, new sales and new revenue streams. A website in even one or two of the major world languages can open up your business to millions of new potential prospects. How else can you reach out to so many people at one time?


Notes added Feb 14 2014:

*According to Internet World Stats, by 2010 the percentage of English-language internet users was down to 26.8%; Chinese accounted for 24.2%; and the fastest growth in usage among the top ten languages was for Arabic, Russian, and Chinese in that order.

**In $2012 world merchandise trade had reached $18.4 trillion and trade in commercial services was up to almost $3.4 trillion. The World Trade Organization has a great map that breaks down this trade by individual sectors and countries.

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