The JW.org website supports more than 675 written languages. And it doesn’t stop at written languages; it also supports more than 90 different sign languages as well as downloadable PDFs in languages ranging from Adyghe to Zazaki, for a total of 941 languages.
Apple, by comparison, supports a mere 34 languages. And Amazon, the company now synonymous with world domination, supports just 15 languages. Based on my studies, the world’s leading brands support an average of 31 languages, adding roughly one new language per year.
Religious leaders understand well the power of language. And so do the tech leaders. Sadly, too many other business leaders have not yet come to this realization.
Notice how precipitously the language curve drops; it plateaus at roughly 40 languages for companies such as Audi, IKEA, 3M, Nikon and Cisco. And yet 40 languages is still a significant accomplishment for most organizations. The average number of languages, among the leading global brands, is just 32 languages.
The next great language boom will center around India, but this will take time as even companies such as Amazon and IKEA have been resistant to fully invest in the many official languages of this country.
Amazon announced earlier this week that it had made its home-grown Amazon Translate service generally available.
Like other Amazon Web Services (AWS), you can leverage the service across websites, apps, as well as text to speech. I should stress that this is a “neural” machine translation service — which has proven surprisingly effective at getting more natural sounding over time. Google and others are also investing heavily in neural MT.
And you can give it a free test drive; according to AWS, the “first The first 2 million characters in each monthly cycle will be free for the first 12 months starting the day you first use the service.”
The major limitation right now languages: It supports English into just six languages, which feels rather retro compared to MT services from SDL and Google. Google Translate, by comparison, is 12 years old and supports 100+ languages (of varying degrees of quality).
And more languages are coming. I can’t comment on the quality of the translation but would love to hear what others have experienced so far.
As I’ve noted in the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card, machine translation continues to gain fans among global brands — not just internally but externally. That is, visitors to websites can self-translate content themselves — a feature I have long recommended for a number of reasons.
So it’s great to see another machine translation service available at scale for organizations of all sizes.
PS: Interesting to see a recommendation from Lionbridge on the home page — a happy Amazon Translate client.
I’m excited to announce the publication of The 2018 Web Globalization Report Card. This is the most ambitious report I’ve written so far and it sheds light on a number of new and established best practices in website globalization.
First, here are the top-scoring websites from the report:
For regular readers of this blog, you’ll notice that Google was unseated this year by Wikipedia. Wikipedia, with support for an amazing 298 languages, made a positive improvement to global navigation over the past year that pushed it into the top spot. And Wikipedia, due to the fact that it is completely user-supported, indicates that there is great demand for languages on the Internet — and very few companies have yet responded in kind.
Google could still stand to improve in global navigation, as could Facebook.
Other highlights from the top 25 list include:
Consumer goods companies such as Pampers and Nestlé are a positive sign that non-tech companies are making positive strides in improving their website globalization skills.
As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of more than 80 languages (up from 54 last year); but note that we added a few websites that made a big impact on that average.
Luxury brands such as Gucci and Ralph Lauren continue to lag in web globalization — from poor support for languages to inadequate localization.
The average number of languages supported by all 150 global brands is now 32.
The data underlying the Report Card is based on studying the leading global brands and world’s largest companies — 150 companies across more than 20 industry sectors. I began tracking many of the companies included in this report more than a decade ago and am happy to share insights into what works and what doesn’t.
I’ll have much more to share in the weeks and months ahead. If you have any questions about the report, please let me know.
Congratulations to the top 25 companies and to the people within these companies who have long championed web globalization.
In it, I define the “translation economy” and the opportunities (and challenges) it presents to all organizations.
From the information economy to the translation economy
The internet connected the world’s computers, and the digitization of content enabled the rapid flow of information around the world, which drove several decades of what came to be known as the information economy. But one of the great myths of the information economy – and the World Wide Web, for that matter – was the idea that a company could go global simply by launching a website. While the Internet connects computers, it is language that connects people, and the information economy has for too many years exhibited an English-language bias.
Today marks the official day one for Amazon in Australia.
While Amazon.com.au has been around for a number of years largely selling eBooks via the Kindle, today the company goes all-in, selling products across more than 20 categories, with Prime coming next year.
It’s interesting to be here and talking to the locals about what this all means. Book publishers and retailers are acutely aware of Amazon, but what do consumers expect? One local newscast noted the initial consumer response has been underwhelming, with locals expecting far better deals than they were seeing.
But success in retail often requires a long game, and Amazon has proven that it is quite content to bleed money in the “short” run for profits later. I think Prime will be the key competitive differentiator for Amazon in Australia that it has been for Amazon in the US. No other retailers here offer anything similar (yet).
On a side note, I was amazed a few weeks ago to see how big Black Friday has become in Australia, demonstrating how local retail holidays can over time become global retail holidays. See the example below from New Zealand-based retailer Kathmandu.
In 2001, I published a report on website weights and their impacts on website performance.
Why, may you ask, was I researching website weights all the way back in 2001?
The great broadband divide
At the time, in the United States and many other countries, homes and businesses were in the process of upgrading from dial-up internet connections to broadband connections. Because businesses were on the leading edge of this upgrade, many web teams designed fancy new websites that relied heavily on images and this fancy new technology known as Flash. But at the time just 5% of US homes had broadband connections, so they were forced to wait 30 seconds and beyond for many of these fancy new web pages to display.
For example, in 2001, the home page of Wal-Mart weighed 238 kilobytes, which, for a dial-up internet user, required up to a 30-second wait for the home page to display.
Around this time period, a startup was emerging that prioritized speed to such a degree that its home page subsisted of nothing more than a few words of text and a logo, weighing all of 13 kilobytes. It’s home page loaded in less than 3 seconds.
That startup was Google.
The Google home page weighed less than half of the Yahoo! home page, and users noticed. It wasn’t just the quality of search that won Google its customers, it was the responsiveness of the interface.
Flash forward to 2017.
Here is the weight of the Google home page in 2001 (blue) compared with today (in green). Google now comes in at a whopping 550 kilobytes (on average). But you don’t have to look far to find websites that weigh many times more than Google, such as IBM and Microsoft and Amazon.
The mobile broadband divide
So what does this mean in terms of website performance?
If you don’t have a high-speed connection, it means the difference between a fast-loading website and a website that you might just give up on.
Not everyone has a high-speed connection
So let’s say you have a smartphone on a 3G network — which represents vast portions of China and most emerging countries, such as Indonesia and Turkey. A web page that weights more than 3 MB could take anywhere from six to 10 seconds to load. If you want your website to display in under the coveted 3-second threshold, you would be wise to keep your website under 1MB.
Based on my research for the Web Globalization Report Card, mobile websites have been steadily increasing in weight. Just over the past two years they have nearly doubled in weight.
Mobile website weight is now one of the many elements that factor into a website’s total score.
If you want to better understand the speed of Internet connections around the world, check out the Speedtest global index.
The Speedtest Global Index compares internet speed data from around the world on a monthly basis. Data for the Index comes from the hundreds of millions of tests taken by real people using Speedtest every month. To be included in the Index, countries must have more than 3,333 unique user test results for fixed broadband and more than 670 unique user test results for mobile in the reported month. Results are updated at the beginning of each month for the previous month.
Here’s an excerpt from October:
So while Norway currently leads the pack with nearly 60Mbps, Brazil comes in at 15Mbps. And Brazil is far from alone at the bottom half of this list.
What’s the key takeaway here?
All the usability testing in the world is meaningless if your customers can’t quickly load your website or mobile web app.
Get your mobile website under 1MB and you’ll be well positioned against the competition — and you’ll be better serving your customers. Get it under 500 kilobytes and you’ll be on par with Google’s home page; not a bad place to be.
Amazon Crossing is the Amazon publishing imprint dedicated to translating non-English books into English. In just a few years it has grown to be a leading translator of literary novels.
I noted earlier that Amazon.in doesn’t significantly support Indian languages. But on the Amazon Crossing submission page, you will find support for Hindi, Bengali and Punjabi. The global gateway is shown below on the right:
The gateway is (sadly) missing a globe icon — though I suspect the Amazon Crossing logo is partly to blame (one globe too many perhaps).
Other languages supported include Arabic, Portuguese and Russian. What’s interesting here is that the language mix is noticeably different on the Amazon.com site.
Both Amazon.com and Amazon Crossing support 13 languages in addition to English as noted in the 2017 Report Card, which means Amazon still has a long ways to go before it competes with the leaders in languages. Here is the average number of languages supported by the leading global brands over the past seven years.
But what I wanted to call attention to is Amazon’s uneven support for languages across its different products and services — a phenomenon that is not unique to Amazon. Many multinationals I work with support different language mixes for different properties. The rationale is sound: Different products and services have different audiences, marketing strategies, global and regional partners, and local opportunities.
But how do you balance an uneven language strategy with a consistent global content architecture? For example, let’s say you have one product page localized into Russian and a visitor to that product page goes to the global nav menu and selects another product, naturally assuming this other product also is also localized into Russian, only to discover it is not.
This problem is only going to grow more acute as more companies decentralize their global product content and marketing strategies.
Of course, every challenge is also an opportunity. Where companies can differentiate themselves is in how effectively they manage user expectations, manage language expectations, and how they leverage machine translation to fill language gaps.