Languages and the Internet

Marc Jarrett
2003 was a significant turning point in the brief history of the web thus far. In that year, the number of non-English language hosts on the Internet out-numbered English ones for the first and final time.

There are over 3000 languages in use in the world at this time, many are used by remote tribes and are expected to die out this century. The Internet is actually helping revive some of those that were in danger of extinction.

Worldwide, Chinese is the most widely spoken, being the native language of 1.3bn of the world’s population – more than the 1.1bn for whom English is the mother tongue.

The latest data from reveal that whilst English is still the most popular single language on the web at 29.7 percent, Chinese and Japanese are catching up fast with a combined total of 17.9 percent, followed by Spanish (7.5 percent) and German (5.4 percent).

The figures also indicate that Internet penetration in North America stands at a healthy 69.1 percent, and that this represents 21.1 percent of the world’s overall total. However, this proportion is expected to decrease as more people in the developing world go online for the very first time.

It is worth noting that the country with the highest Internet usage is, of all places, Iceland at 86.8 percent – confirming what we all already suspected – cold weather is great for this business!

Closer to home, the open source encyclopaedia confirms that the United States is home to more than 40 million Hispanics, the fifth largest Spanish-speaking community in the world.

Perhaps now is the time to start adding that Spanish tour to your website you have been putting off all this time. Procrastination maybe the thief of time, but it also does a pretty good job of robbing you of a whole new income from a market sitting right on your doorstep!

The pictures we peddle really do say more than a thousand words, but resolutely sticking to English during the sales process is depriving you of income from a global audience, practically all of whom can see your content which needs no translation.

Like music, digital titillation truly transcends national boundaries and sure beats the hell out of selling most other products or services for which not translating when going global is simply not an option.

Since you have that option, you are probably already exercising it and are already making sales from foreign surfers who can just about understand your Anglo-Saxon sales pitch inviting them to Join Now. I would happily wager that not a single one of you is receiving traffic solely from within the confines of North America.

The good news is that you already know your prospect’s IP address – and hence their home country – allowing you to start selling to them in a language they understand – theirs.

However, this will be futile exercise unless you can convert their intent to buy into good ole’ greenbacks. Simply asking them to part with credit card information that they most likely do not have will clearly seriously hinder your globalization efforts.

The only other medium with global reach, the international telephone system (which effectively powers the Internet), holds the key to start making money on a global scale, not least since by definition all Internet users need one to use it. Moreover, cellphone ownership in developing countries often rivals those of developed ones.

The potent combination of an IP-geo-targeted call-to-action in the surfer’s native tongue, together with a billing mechanism that all surfers have, will hand you an additional instant income – all without any additional marketing efforts on your part since these people are already visiting your sites.

Implementation of such billing will then translate to money, which still speaks volumes, in every language!