Five hundred and thirty seven million people use the Web in English; 445 million use it in Chinese. Yet the vast majority of users, 985 million people, navigate the Web in other languages.
"Although every Web site is global from the moment it goes live, few are designed with the world in mind," says author John Yunker. Companies miss crucial opportunities if they don't address a global audience. Research shows that people prefer to visit Web sites written in their own language.
A Eurobarometer survey, for example, found that 90 percent of European Web site users will always visit a Web site in their own language if they are offered a choice. Only 53 percent of users would choose to use an English Web site in place of one in their own language. Up to 60 percent of users who did navigate to an English language website expressed missing interesting information. In some countries, users only watch and read online content in their own language. This reluctance extends to buying products. A paltry 18 percent of users surveyed said they would "frequently or always buy products in a foreign language."
Millennials Are Revolutionizing Work and the Web
Businesses ignore translation and localization at their own peril. The rise of the Millennial generation underlines the need for these tools. People under the age of 30 comprise more than half of the world's population. The majority of Millennials live in China, Africa, South America, and other countries with per capita incomes of less than $1,000 per year. More than half of the users in China, which is expected to surpass the U.S. in terms of Internet users by 2013, are under the age of 25. Most U.S. Internet users are between 18 and 29 years old, according to a December 2010 Pew Internet survey.
Millennials are poised to make big changes to the global economy. The world is facing a peak population of 9.7 billion estimated for the middle of the century, an aging global workforce, and decreasing fertility rates. It is ready for the Millennial business model, which focuses on social causes in addition to the bottom line. An entrepreneurial group, Millennials harness widespread access to information and markets to collaborate internationally. Lower equipment costs, improved telecommunications infrastructure, and widespread mobile adoption around the world have ensured that almost everyone can connect easily and cheaply. Income no longer presents an insurmountable barrier to entry.
In many ways, big organizations are on the same page as millennials. A hypercompetitive economy has forced corporations to decrease their response times around both market and stakeholder needs. As a result, collaboration has to be efficient and take place on a global scale. Corporations have flattened their organizational hierarchies and become more flexible. Offshoring and outsourcing have led to a more diverse, multilingual global workforce, even within the same organization. Within this context it is essential to have training, marketing and technical materials available in relevant languages so that global teams can collaborate and work more efficiently.
Meeting Translation Needs
International collaboration is a must in the modern, Millennial-driven economy. Still, most translation options are one-size-fits-all solutions that don't address a company's unique needs. Hiring a good human translator is the traditional course of action. But at an industry-standard rate of 23 cents per word, the average millennial entrepreneur, who probably comes from a country with a low per-capita income, wouldn't foot the cost. Considering the increasing predominance of social media within the organization, combined with how quickly content ages online, the time it takes to find the right translator, communicate the parameters of the project, find a project manager, wait for the translator to finish, then correct the content could cost a company its competitive position.
One recent alternative, machine translation, is fast and free. But it doesn't guarantee quality. The solution lies in combining the speed and low price of machine translation with the expertise of humans. Corporations today need a collaborative translation platform, which leverages both technology and crowds to create custom translation solutions. Through a combination of software and humans, analyzed and customized translations can match the level of importance of content. Instead of applying a uniform solution to unique needs, companies can match the workflow to the job.
Millennials and multinationals alike benefit from fast, accurate, and cost-effective translation. In the new global economy, massive international collaboration is a core facet of doing business. The need for localized content and translation is no longer a luxury. It's a bare necessity.
Rob Vandenberg is CEO of Lingotek, a collaborative translation ptlatform that gives enterprise business customers new ways to engage their global communities.