Amy Campbell alerted me to a very interesting graphic on the Google Zeitgeist page. It tracks the languages used to access Google over the past two years:
Google handles more than 200 million queries a day from around the world. Increasingly, these queries are not in English. Over the past few years, Google has aggressively localized its search engine for more than 60 languages. These language-specific search engines are very important to Google’s continued growth, since the majority of new Internet users are not native-English speakers.
Keep a close eye on that tiny purple streak representing Chinese; it’s sure to expand. While there are only about 100 million German speakers in the world, there are well over a billion Chinese speakers. Also expect to see Arabic (200 million speakers) make an entrance in a few years.
Google began in 1998 as an English-language search engine. My, how times — and the Internet — have changed. And, if you’re interested, Google is looking for an International Webmaster.
A great interview with Andy Chuang of Goodcharacters.com in Fresno, California. His company specializes in Chinese naming and linguistic evaluation. The interview was conducted by Steve Rivkin; here’s an excerpt:
For example, Toshiba once had a commercial song in China that sang, Toshiba, Toshiba
However, it turned out that to-shi-ba sounded like let’s steal it (tou-chu-ba) in Mandarin Chinese. People really made fun of it.
Fortunately, Toshiba is a Japanese name and its corresponding characters, Dong-Ji, means the East and nobility. Now Toshiba uses Dong-Ji more and is careful when using the pronunciation of Toshiba.
Some brand names travel more easily than others. Here are a few common war stories of brands that didn’t fare so well abroad:
A food company named its giant burrito a BURRADA. Big mistake. The colloquial meaning of that word is “big mistake.”
Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the PINTO flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals.” Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted the name Corcel, which means “horse.”
A leading brand of car de-icer in Finland will never make it in America. The brand name: SUPER PISS.