Two thoughts on Euro 2008 and Web globalization

Congratulations to Spain for emerging on top of Euro 2008. I can’t say that I was pulling for any one team, but I would have loved to have seen Germany score a last-second goal to keep the tournament alive.

Being the globalization geek that I am, I couldn’t help but check out the home page of Yahoo! Spain, which features a localized header, shown here:

Yahoo! Spain header for Euro 2008

And then I noticed that the home page of Yahoo! Germany was also localized for the home team.

Yahoo! Germany header for Euro 2008

So who the heck was Yahoo! rooting for?

Everyone, it seems.

Which highlights a delicate issue for multinational Web sites — that of not appearing to root for one country over another. The golden rule of course is to simply treat each country equally. This is easy to do when it comes to localizing headers, but not so easy when it comes to providing equal levels of customer support, product documentation, and so on.

Yahoo! is not alone in navigating these waters. Here is Google Germany:

Google Germany for Euro 2008

Interestingly, you can’t view this German page by simply entering google.de. You need to use a German-based IP proxy.

And now here’s my second Web globalization thought: Why does the Euro 2008 Web site support vastly more languages than the Beijing Olympics Web site?

Here is the Euro site, with support for 9 languages.

Euro 2008 languages header

And here is the Olympics site, with support for just English, French, and Chinese.

Header from  the Olympics Beijing Web site

I find it ironic that an event that is billed as a global event supports fewer languages than an event that has Euro in its title. Euro 2008 even supports Japanese, Chinese, and Korean even though these countries don’t have participating teams.

I realize that the Olympic Charter specifies just two official languages: English and French. And the host country generally adds its local language to the mix as well. This rule makes sense for signage, announcements, etc. But I don’t see why the Web site should support only three languages.

The argument can be made by the Olympics that they simply cannot justify financially supporting every language of every participating country. But I still don’t buy it. If Euro2008 can support 9 languages, the Olympics can and should do better than three.

Translating numbers in China

As John wrote awhile back: All lucky numbers are local.

And this is particularly true in China, where people pay thousands of dollars to obtain license plates with lucky numbers.

So when it comes to naming products or setting prices, you have to be very careful about your choice of numbers. Here are some tips:

6 means “good fortune.”
8 means “abundance of wealth” or “make lots of money.”

The number 8 is a very lucky number, and the reason why China chose August 8th, 2008 to kick off Olympics Games. Vehicle license plates and cellphone numbers containing 6 or 8 are coveted and often auctioned to the highest bidder. A recent example: A C88888 vehicle license was auctioned in Guangdong where it sold for RMB800,000 (around USD113,000). The new owner hopes this license number helps bring good fortune — though presumably the owner was already fortunate enough to have the money to spend on the license plate.

9 means “forever.”

If a boy wants to buy a rose for his girlfriend, he will typically buy 9 roses. If he wants to splurge, he’ll buy 19 roses — and if he’s affluent, he’ll buy 99 roses. September 9th is Senior People Day in China, to ensure that th elderly live a healthy and long life.

4 is pronounced the same as “dead.”
13 means crazy, abnormal.

If a Chinese person says “you are 13”, it means “you are insane!” Some buildings, like in the US, avoid having a 13th floor. Instead, they use floor 12B. And although the pronunciation of 4 sounds like “dead,” there is a positive way to portray the number: In a musical scale, 4 is equialent to “fa,” which is pronounced closely to “make money” in Chinese. My old phone number contains “5854” and my Chinese friends say it is a great number because it means “I make money and then I make money again.” I am happy to hear their comments.

51 in Chinese is pronounces like “I (5) wanna (1).”

You’ll find a lot of businesses and Websites using 51 in their names. 51job is the largest online human resources company. So you can tell a lot about a company simply by the numbers it uses in its domain name. Since 1 sounds like “wanna,” the number 18 is also popular as “wanna make money” and many people will choose the 18th of the month as a new business opening date or a wedding date.

Even numbers > odd numbers

Chinese people like to use even numbers rather than odd numbers because even number are related to the concept of “pairs” which usually means “perfect” in Chinese culture.

With regards to business, if a company produces different versions of products, expect them to produce 6, 8, or 12, 36 different versions. And you can always find prices like 88.00, 128.00; 156.00 in China’s shopping malls.

Google Translate is growing up

What began as just another “gisting” application — like Babel Fish — is gradually becoming an impressive translation tool. And I’m not referring to the quality of translation, though that is improving as well.

I’m referring to the breadth of languages and breadth of features that Google Translate supports.

Today, Google announced that Google Translate added support for ten more languages, bringing the total to 23. The ten new languages are Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian and Swedish.

And that’s not all!

Google Translate also now provides a detect language tool that will tell what language a batch of text is in. This type of tool can come in awfully handy for people like me who navigate across so many languages on a daily basis. It’s an easy feature for Google to support because the translation engine needs to know what the source language is before translating it. But I also tested language detect on a few languages not yet supported for translation, such as Slovakian, and the engine correctly identified them.

A week ago, I integrated Google Translate into the home page of Byte Level:

Google Translate on Byte Level Research

When it comes to translation, I’m not a good example of “putting my money where my mouth is.” Byte Level Research, with the exception of the Tower of Babel site, has been available only in English for years.

While I have no illusions that this widget will make up for a lack of professionally translated text, I am curious to see if people use it and to what extent. What I need to know is if Google Analytics can track Google Translate widget usage so I can know which languages are most popular. If anyone knows how to set this up, please contact me.

And, if nothing else, it’s an interesting experiment — and it buys me time before having to shell out real money for professional translation, which I will ultimately need to do.