The Google Blog says that “over the past four years, Google has billed advertisers in 65 countries more than $11.2 billion in 48 currencies, and made payments to advertising partners of more than $3.9 billion. ”
While the margins are what the financial analysts focus on, I’m more impressed by the geographic reach: 65 countries. While the revenues from many of these countries is just a sliver of the total pie, Google has done a nice job of seeding these markets.
A few years ago I spoke with an executive at a Fortune 500 company who confidently explained why his company wasn’t translating its Web site: “The world will all be speaking English soon enough,” he told me.
His Web site has since been translated.
So perhaps the world won’t all be speaking English anytime soon. But it’s safe to say that English is becoming the lingua franca of the world. It’s the most popular second language being taught in Europe and much of Asia. But the thing to keep in mind is this: Even if the world does all one day speak English, for most of the world, English will still be their second language.
This is an important point. It’s one thing to expect the world to learn new languages; it’s another thing to expect the world to give up their native languages.
Which is why I was excited to see The British Council publishing a book on the future of English by a guy who has been writing about this issue for many years. His name is David Graddol and the book is called Next English.
The book is free and you can download a copy here. I’m still working my way through, but here are some items that jumped out at me:
-> A massive increase in the number of people learning English has already begun, and is likely to reach a peak of around 2 billion in the next 10 to 15 years — nearly a third of the world’s population.
-> Monolingual English speakers face a bleak economic future, and the barriers preventing them from learning other languages are rising rapidly.
-> The competitive advantage which English has historically provided its acquirers (personally, organisationally, and nationally) will ebb away as English becomes a near-universal basic skill. The need to maintain the advantage by moving beyond English will be felt more acutely.
Here’s the link.
Internet Retailer features an article on QuikDrop. The company is going to offer sellers free translation of auction listings in up to eight languages. According to the article, the company is does “about 15,000 auctions a week” with 40% of their bidders based outside the US.
I contacted QuikDrop co-founder Jack Reynoalds and he says that the seller will not pay for this service; QuikDrop is footing the bill. “We make money by drawing in foreign bidders to our eBay auctions. This drives up the final selling price of our eBay item,” says Jack.
So how is QuikDrop going to cover the translation costs and still turn a profit?
Answer: Machine translation.
QuikDrop has a deal with MT vendor, Systran, using an API to manage translations via Internet.
Although machine translation isn’t exactly known for the highest quality translation, Jack stresses that “selling into international markets on eBay is all about credibility. People are afraid that when they pay for the item, the eBay seller will not ship and they will have no legal recourse. MT for our auctions shows the international eBay community that we take their business seriously. All of our eBay auctions have pictures next to the text to assist the bidder in understanding the item.”
You can view a translated listing yourself here by selecting this eBay auction.
It’s a pretty nifty interface. I can’t vouch for the quality of the translation (or the product), but I do like the presentation.
Jack says that translation is increasingly becoming a necessity: “eBay is growing internationally faster than it is domestically. Long term, all eBay sellers are going to have to use MT to stay competitive…”