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Longcloud Develop Its Website in Languages Other Than English

In: Other Topics

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Appendix 13

Teaching materials

A13.1 Exercise Multicultural class
Look at the person seated next to you in class, or anyone with whom you have frequent interaction. Then select somebody originating from a foreign culture. List three examples of non-verbal communication that she or he uses, describe them accurately and decode their meaning. Now ask this person to look at you and do the same. Then work together and compare both interpretations and try to understand why meaning was shared or, possibly, not shared. (This exercise can be implemented only with a good degree of cultural diversity within the student group.)

A13.2 Exercise I ‘love’ cake
Start from the English verb ‘to like’ and find its equivalents in French, German and Spanish. Do not hesitate to translate them back into English in order to detect differences in meaning. Include in your search some basic etymological grounds (e.g. gusto in Spanish is based on the word for ‘taste’). What differences in terms of world-views are suggested by the different conceptual dimensions of ‘liking’ (preference, affective, pleasure, love, enjoyment, eating/ingesting, etc.) and their attributions to people, things or situations? Suggest possible consequences for international marketing and advertising strategies.

A13.3 Case Longcloud – Languages in cyberspace
Language is a steed that carries one into a far country. (Arabic proverb.) Brushing through green pastures in her rugged truck, Longcloud marketing director Sarah Elder mused over what she would say at this afternoon’s meeting. Longcloud Lamb was a

Appendix 13 Teaching materials


young company, specializing in chilled and frozen New Zealand lamb and goat products with a difference: it was organic and exceeded animal welfare stipulations in major export markets. With already five established export partners in the USA and Japan, and 32 regular customers in the area, Sarah and her colleagues were pleasantly surprised by the phenomenal demand growth in only seven years of operations. Accelerated global growth for Longcloud was now imperative, to recoup costs of the recent acquisition of new lands, 42 per cent more stock, and an updated processing plant with EU and USDA certification and Halal capability. Given that the company managed current wholesale customers in export markets using an e-commerce platform, it seemed obvious that a better website was the answer. In addition, the latest processing and shipping technology made it possible to send chilled cuts to smaller export customers on an individual basis. Most New Zealand exporters were beefing up their sites too, although Canadian-born Sarah had been surprised that most were English-only. Longcloud aimed to capture certain European markets for organic chilled lamb and goat products, as well as niche markets around the world, such as organic restaurants, schools, and religious and non-profit organizations. The lamb meat cuts market was global, and interest in organic meats was a growing phenomenon. First in interest for organic lamb was the European Union, primarily Britain, France and Germany, followed by the USA. Then, there were smaller markets throughout North Africa, the Middle East and India, many with a particular interest in Longcloud’s Halal capacity. There was a growing interest for organic goat meat in fragmented Latin American markets, also. ‘Because we must differentiate ourselves from mainstream chilled lamb producers, we need to demonstrate our difference in our communications materials. What better way than to talk to customers and prospects in their own language?’ Sarah would argue later that day in the meeting. Her colleagues then made a chorus of objections, such as: ‘The fact that Longcloud is organic is difference enough, we don’t need to bother with languages’, and: ‘Translating is so costly, can’t we just put one of those Altavista Babelfish translation icons on each page? How are you going to decide which languages to use anyways?’ Jumping into the fray, general manager Linden Carmody stated, ‘Fine, so we publish our multilingual site, but all we can speak is bad French . . . so what happens to our customer relationship beyond on-site ordering and payments? Right, and what about e-mails, how will we understand and answer them?’ Each one had a point, Sarah conceded, however it was well established that customers appreciated the ease of conducting business in their own languages, at least for most of the transactions. Especially if Longcloud was to be dealing with niche markets, she opined, a more personalized approach would be necessary. She believed that was the case even if just two other languages were used, such as French for the ten or more countries that speak the language and seek organic lamb, and Arabic for countries with a Halal market and some organic sensitivities. With potentially wider and more diverse business contacts around the world, Sarah argued further, Longcloud’s medium-term goal to grow its own tanned organic lambskin and organic wool products businesses was more likely to be realized. In the website language debate, Longcloud was not alone: innumerable companies and organizations faced the same problem, and could find no easy solution. According to Global Reach, more than 63 per cent of people accessing the Internet do not do so in English. That figure should be up to 75 per cent by 2005, according to projections (Maroto, 2003). An online study by Vilaweb in 2000 found that 68.39 per cent of total webpages were in English, followed by Japanese (5.85 per cent), German (5.77 per cent), and Chinese (3.87 per cent) (Pastore, 2000). There are manifold difficulties of estimating language use on webpages; however, it is clear that English dominates the web although it does not dominate the world’s languages, as Table 13.1 illustrates. English is spoken by approximately half the number of those who speak Chinese, yet Chinese is vastly underrepresented on webpages.

402 Chapter 13 Language, culture and communication China has one of the world’s fastest-growing online populations. According to the Chinese Internet Network Information Center, 68 million people have Internet subscriptions, indicating a much higher number with online access – an increase of 6.8 million over six months. The number of Chinese Internet users doubles every 12–18 months (Anon, 2003). German, Japanese and French appear to be relatively present on the Internet; however, the languages themselves do not have a correspondingly large population of speakers, as is clear from Table 13.1.

Table 13.1 Ranking of languages according to number of speakers
Language Principal countries or regions spoken Estimated speakers (in millions) 885 450 333 266 175 162 153 150 126 122

Chinese English Hindi/Urdu Spanish Portuguese Bengali Russian Arabic Japanese French

China, Taiwan, the diaspora Australasia, North America, South Africa, British Isles Indian sub-continent, the diaspora Latin America, Spain Angola, Brazil, Mozambique, Portugal Indian sub-continent Former Soviet Union Middle East, North Africa Japan Belgium, Canada, France, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Switzerland

(Source: Ethnologue, 12th edn, Dallas, TX, 1992.)

According to Nielsen/NetRatings, 580 million people worldwide had access to the Internet in the fourth quarter of 2002. This compares with 563 million online in the last quarter of 2001. The country experiencing the biggest year on year growth in terms of population was Spain, at 22 per cent, while the United States experienced a corresponding increase of 3 per cent. The United States still had the largest number online at 168.6 million, followed by Germany (41.8 million), the UK (30.4 million) and Italy (25.3 million). Spain also led in Internet use of e-mail, chat rooms and instant messaging. In terms of online access populations, the USA remains the leader, although the margins are narrowing (see Table 13.2).

Table 13.2 Online access in terms of percentage of the total online population
Country or region Share of world online population (per cent) 29% 23% 13% 2% 33%

USA Europe Asia-Pacific Latin America Rest of world (countries not under Nielsen/NetRatings)
(Source: Nielsen/NetRatings, 20 February, 2003.)

Appendix 13 Teaching materials


The role of e-commerce
In a best-case projection for 2006, e-commerce should comprise 18 per cent of the world’s business-to-business and retail transactions (UNCTAD Secretariat, 2002). This growth presupposes the participation of a diverse language base, and the adaptation of e-commerce platforms to linguistic and cultural conditions. Many multinational corporations have websites that are entirely in English, however, and the number of major global businesses who have adapted their sites is growing slowly.

How to adapt a website – more than just a translation
When adapting software to local contexts, the following elements need to be considered: language, literacy and culture. For organizations looking to adapt their message locally around the globe, the same elements are pertinent in website and e-commerce platforms design. Apart from translations, which alone may account for half the localization costs for software, the choice of language or dialect may be critical. Should one select an ‘Official language’ to the detriment of a language spoken unofficially by large numbers of the target audience? Elements of website design that need to be adapted according to the culture of the target audience include colours used, text versus graphics, a ‘busy’ screen versus a minimalist one, animations, symbols and icons (Kang, 2001). Currently, there are software facilities for dealing with cultural variations in number formats, sort orders, and times and dates formats. At this time, technology is not well prepared to implement non-Gregorian calendar types. The correct and locally adapted use of proper names is also problematic (Hall, 2002).

Which language?
When deciding which languages to use in adapting a regionally targeted website, certain social and economic factors should be considered independently of the number of speakers of the languages under consideration. Predominant among these are literacy, language use and access. Indian languages are a case in point. India, with one billion people, has two official languages: English and Hindi. There are 18 major languages and 418 other languages spoken by 10,000 or more people (Chowdhry, 2000). First, there may be a large number of speakers for some languages, although the corresponding literacy rate may be quite low. Where this is the case the complexity of the language used and the share of online graphics may reflect this. In addition, it is now possible to integrate speech or speech recognition systems (currently only available for the world’s ‘main’ languages) on the site’s capabilities (Hall, 2002). Secondly, many people around the world are accustomed to using languages other than their own for business or general communication purposes. As in many developing countries, some Indians may feel uneasy conducting business in any language other than English, yet they may feel similar unease communicating at home in English. The user’s website language of preference may depend on whether the Internet is accessed from home or from work. English may be more acceptable for work-access, while a local language may be preferable for use from the home computer. For this reason, the company with international ambitions needs to determine the likely point of access for its target audiences. Thirdly, access to the Internet may be uneven. For instance, raw Internet access numbers may be low in some rural areas; however, one entrepreneur with a computer and Internet access may allow many others to access the net using the most basic equipment, in exchange for a user fee. Internet access may in this case be higher than initially assumed. Similarly, when looking at the size of the Internet audience in targeted nations, one should be wary

404 Chapter 13 Language, culture and communication of dismissing a small audience, such as the 0.1 per cent of Nigerians online. That small percentage represents 100,000 of the country’s most affluent, and likely the same people who make major decisions in government and its bureaucracies (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2001). Complicating the issue of adapting (or not) to a locally understood language are social factors that have imbued English with its status as the language of preference for business in some countries. At the same time, there are fierce debates over the use and even the survival of some Indian languages (Chowdhry, 2000). One should not assume that English is generally a safe choice: it is vital to gauge the attitudes of the target audience towards the language because in some regions there may be historical or political reasons for polite hostility towards those who use English. Those who decide to localize their websites should be aware of several software complexities involved in online publishing of non-Roman scripts, including Arabic, Bengali, Greek, Thai and Hebrew, that have only recently been addressed. One of the problems caused by fonts online is the correct use of diacritics, the accents placed above and below letters – small symbols that can often change the meaning of a word depending on its orientation – used in some Nordic languages, Greek, French, Turkish and some eastern European languages, to name a few. The directionality of symbols is another issue. The fact that numerals are ordered from left to right in Arabic and Hebrew scripts, which themselves are oriented from right to left, is another example of online font problems (Correll, 2003). In addition, some non-Latin scripts require two bits in processing, which complicates encoding and may considerably slow down an e-commerce site. The first program to address these problems was produced by the Unicode Consortium, with the goal of eventually codifying all characters produced by humans, anywhere and at any time in history. Currently in its fourth version, the Unicode Standard addresses issues like vertical script (as in East Asian languages) or the right–left orientation of Semitic scripts. Although there are other means of dealing with language representation, the Unicode Consortium has developed the only system to be accepted by the International Standards Organization, as well as the most widely used code within html format. The entire text of Unicode 4.0, as well as useful guidance and information, is available at

1. Assess in which ways culture, religion and language may influence foreign marketing operations in the organic meat business. Does it differ whether marketing and sales are implemented through traditional marketing or by e-commerce? 2. Investigate the possibility of using automatic translation programs for non-English speaking visitors of a website. For this, you can make your own trials on websites that offer free sample translation, such as, or 3. Assess the approximate cost of developing a different language version of an English-based website. 4. Should Longcloud develop its website in languages other than English? If yes, which language(s)? Argue about the pros and cons of such decisions.
Saskia Faulk and Jean-Claude Usunier prepared this case solely to provide material for class discussion. The authors do not intend to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a business situation. The authors may have disguised certain names and other identifying information to protect confidentiality. (©IUMI, reprinted with kind permission.)

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