Speaking in Tongues: Corporate America needs to get religious about languages

I was happy to have an essay published in the recent issue of Multilingual.

In the essay I write:

While Wikipedia, Google and Facebook are among the leaders in languages at 298, 172 and 107 respectively, they don’t come even close to the website of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

That’s right. The world’s most linguistic website is managed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and can be found at www.JW.org.

You can read the essay here.

 

 

 

 

Deloitte: The best global professional services website of 2018

For the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied the following 6 professional services websites:

  1. Accenture
  2. Capgemini
  3. Deloitte
  4. Ernst & Young
  5. KPMG
  6. PWC

Last year, Deloitte and KPMG tied for first place. This year, Deloitte pulled ahead of KPMG with the top score.

While KPMG may lead in languages, Deloitte leads in global navigation as well as depth and timeliness of local content.

Here are a few highlights from the report:

  • Professional services websites tend to reflect highly decentralized corporate structures, with support for locally generated content and social feeds. Nevertheless, the leaders demonstrate that even decentralized companies can successfully support global consistency.
  • At 38 languages, KPMG remains the language leader in this category.
  • Deloitte was the first professional services company to use a globe icon and, as I predicted last year, would not be the last. Another company has joined this trend, but it could still benefit from improvement in execution.
  • Over the past year, Capgemini unveiled a new global design that is a clear step forward. The new design is less than half the weight (2.3MB) of the previous design (5MB). Also significant, the mobile design maintains the global gateway in the header, as seen here:

  • PwC takes an interesting (and unfortunate) approach to its global gateway. PwC relies on the “location” icon, shown below for its global gateway:

This global gateway fails in several ways. First, the “location” icon is more traditionally used to “find location,” as in find a local store or office. Using this icon for selecting a country or region is not standard. Also, the use of a pull-down menu is not user friendly. As you can see, the list is alpha-sorted, which will not be intuitive from users from many other countries and who speak different languages. For example, where would a German resident first look — under G for Germany or under D for Deutschland? In this case, the only link to Germany is located under G, even though PWC does support German-language localization.

  • Accenture also does a poor job of managing expectations. For example, shown on the Spanish home page is the link to an article (headline in Spanish); clicking on the link takes the user to the UK website and an article in English.

 

 

Despite the high degree of global consistency and support for languages exhibited by a few of these websites, more improvements are needed before any of these companies break into the top 25.

For more information, check out the Web Globalization Report Card.

If you’d like a report that includes only the professional services benchmark profiles, please contact us.

 

Think you can succeed in India supporting English only? Think again.

#serveinmylanguage

It’s more than a hashtag; it’s a social movement. And it’s growing.

A movement among Indian consumers to force the vendors who depend on their business to actually support their native languages.

As this Times of India article notes: From ATMs to deposit slips, withdrawal challans and call centres, most public and private banks feel that service in Hindi and English should suffice their customer base –– Indians who converse in 22 major languages and 720 dialects.

This article is specific to the banking industry, but it’s safe to say that this is the beginning of something much bigger. Linguistically, India has been poorly served by websites.

As I noted in the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card, only 7% of the global websites studied support Hindi, followed by Urdu and Tamil. According to research conducted by Nielsen in 2017, 68% of Indian internet users consider local-language content to be more reliable than English. Facebook certainly understands this; Facebook supports more than half of India’s official languages. And it’s no surprise that Facebook now has more users in India than in the US.

Fortunately, some Indian banks are now becoming more multilingual. The Times of India article notes:

Private banks such as ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank are trying to be more multi-lingual in their digital banking strategy. “For instance, the Kotak Bharat app is aimed at financial inclusion. Users can transfer money, recharge their mobile, buy insurance, etc in Hindi, English, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil or Kannada. We plan to expand the app to handle other regional languages,” says Deepak Sharma, chief digital officer at Kotak Mahindra Bank.

And as you can see by this excerpt from my newly updated IDN poster, India represents a significant diversity of languages and scripts:

Languages are more than a means to an end; they are a sign of respect.

And companies that invest in languages are not only investing in their customers but investing in their own future.

Source

Internationalization resources complements of the W3C

Successful website globalization is all about asking questions.

A key point I stress in Think Outside the Country is that nobody knows everything. Nobody can know everything. And you should not trust anyone who says or implies they do. And, honestly, that’s part of the fun of this field — from language to culture to country to technology, you will never stop learning something new.

So where do I go when I have questions?

Well, if the questions are technical and specific to the Internet, I often begin by visiting the World Wide Web (W3C) Consortium, specifically the Internationalization Working Group. Richard Ishida, who leads this group, has done an impressive job over the years of curating and publishing tutorials, best practices and standards.

So where do you begin if you want to learn more?

Here are a few resources that I recommend checking out…

Working with Languages in HTML

A nice overview of language tags and why they matter.

Personal Names Around the World

An excellent explanation for why “first name” and “last name” in an input form is bound to fail when taken global.

Introduction to Multilingual Web Addresses

A nice intro to internationalized domain names (IDNs), punycode, and other challenging aspects of getting non-Latin domains to work on the Internet.

Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm Basics

A dense read but  important if you want to understand how web browsers handle bidi scripts such as Hebrew and Arabic.

CSS3 and International Text

A look at the cool new multilingual features of CSS.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Dive in!

 

 

Country codes of the world. XL.

For quite some time people have asked me about creating a larger version of our Country Codes of the World map, something they could pin up in their conference rooms or on office walls.

And a map without the legend, so that people could figure out on their own which ccTLDs stood for which country or region.

Now I’m pleased to offer just that — a whopping 4 foot by 3 foot black and white poster printed on lightweight paper.

Shown below is an excerpt of this map featuring our resident model Harlan. He’s a big cat and, despite his best efforts, even he can’t cover up all of the Americas.

To learn more and purchase, click here.

Feline not included.

Welcome to the Kingdom of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland

When I read about Swaziland’s recent name change, by decree, my first thought was: What about the country code?

As in .sz?

As far as I can tell, it’s way too soon to know if the president has thought this far ahead. My guess is that things will stay the same for quite some time.

But country codes do change and will continue to change. And as I noted earlier, internationalized domain names also continue to evolve, as you can see here.