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In a Harvard Business Review study, 72 % of respondents stated that they spend most of their time on websites written in their language, and nearly as many would be more likely to purchase a product if the product information was available in their mother tongue. 56 % even said that getting information in their native language was more important to them than the price.
These are excellent reasons why you should consider localizing your company's website—even if you don't do e-commerce. But remember: Website localization is much more than just translating the texts.
Transcreation, on the other hand, goes one step further: based on the original text, a new text is created in the target language, where the wording and tone of voice are suited to induce the same impressions and emotions as the source text. Transcreation is particularly important for headlines, slogans, and brand or product names.
With almost 1.2 billion English-speaking online users, English is undoubtedly the Internet's lingua franca. Consequently, about 54 % of all Internet pages are written in English. But what about the remaining three-quarters of all Internet users who speak other languages? Particularly worth mentioning are the approximately 900 million Chinese speakers, who only account for 1.4 % of all web content in Chinese.
Your web presence pursues a business objective. According to the Harvard Business Review study, the presentation of content in the native language is paramount for conversion, especially for business websites. The same applies in part to web localization into English because, depending on your target market, differences between American English, British English, and other varieties, as well as country-specific considerations, can sometimes be relevant to your target audience.
Moreover, the German language plays a unique role, as it ranks third in the ranking of Internet languages (ahead of Spanish and French), yet “only” 2 % of all online users speak German (10th place). Germany is one of the world's largest economies and a major player in international trade. Other German-speaking countries like Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein also have strong economies and offer great business opportunities in various industries. German is the most widely spoken native language in the European Union, meaning that—together with English— your web content will reach 80 % of all consumers in the world's largest common economic area.
Here, two types of tools should be distinguished: browser widgets for ad-hoc translation of a web page and machine translation tools to produce the text to be used on the multilingual web pages. The former is not suitable for business use. Apart from insufficient quality and a lack of control over how your company presents itself to the target audience, it does not publish multilingual content online that is exploitable by search engines. Without keywords and backlinks in the target language and search engine optimization (SEO), you are virtually invisible to prospective customers in your target market and, therefore, nonexistent.
Of course, you can create multilingual websites yourself with machine translation tools. But remember: website localization is much more than just translating the texts. The outcome will shape your brand image in a foreign market with an unfamiliar sociocultural environment and regional conventions, where your potential customers and possibly competitors are at home. You should also be aware that search engines might penalize your web site ranking if they consider your content machine-translated.