Which languages should I translate my website into?

by Yuko Baba, Project Manager at Commit Global

The world is global – more global than ever, and probably more so than we think it is. People are traveling from one side of the globe to the other within a day. We can purchase products from all around the world and get them within a few days. Social Media is connecting us globally, and we instantly get the buzzing news from the other side of the world and overloaded with information we probably do not need. In a way, this pandemic of COVID-19 has proven to us how small the world really is. So, yes, for better or worse, the world is more global.

So, the question is – Is having your website in English alone enough? Unfortunately, the answer is a strong “NO”, especially if you are thinking of expanding your business and continue growing in this global village. Having a website in English alone is no longer effective at this point. In France, only 39 percent of people speak English as a second language followed by Italy’s 35 percent and 23 percent of Spain. The number significantly drops to single digits in Russia with 5.2 percent, in Brazil with 5 percent. China has less than 1 percent of people who speak or understand English (World Finance). This number is alarming enough; However, to make the situation even more severe, 72% of consumers not only spend most of their time on websites in their own language, they also would be more inclined to purchase a product if the information is given in their own language. (Harvard Busines Review). This means that people, even if they can read and speak English as a second language, are more inclined to make a purchase if the information is given in their own language. This number cannot be ignored.

But what language should you translate your website to first? Where do you even start choosing the language? It is quite a commitment to translate your website into another language. There are 195 countries in the world and over 3900 languages with a written system. Choosing the right language can be overwhelming. There are a few approaches to this.

First and foremost, know your product and service. Before you choose the language to translate into, it is important to do some research on your own product/service in the international context first. If you are interested in one country, find out if there are needs for the product or service in that country. One way to find out is to check if there are similar products or services provided already in the country.

Another effective approach is to check on your existing clients and their demographics. Know why they are coming to your site and purchasing your product. Possibly run some customer surveys and dig deeper into what needs you are meeting for your existing clients. The data from the existing clients might be able to help you narrow down the potential clients in the international field.

If there’s potential for your business, think about the next steps and possible challenges you might encounter doing business in another country – including taxes and tariffs. Does your product or service violate any cultural spoken or unspoken rules?

After running this research, additional information that might help is finding out the number of internet users in the country you might be looking into expanding your business. Even if you decide to translate into another language, if the country is not internet-ready, then you might want to wait on that decision. According to Internet Word Stats, the top ten languages used on the web is below:

top 10 languages

*Table taken from Internet Word Stats

These statistics, especially on internet penetration and internet users growth, might shed some light on which language you might want to consider translating your website into. There are numbers of amazing growth in Arabic, Russian, Malaysian and Chinese, which might be some indication for your potential business growth.

These are just a few ideas among many. Whatever language you decide to translate your website into, Commit Global has vast experience in localizing your web content to assist you with your success in the global market!