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.
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.