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International marketing provides access to vast new markets, and millions of prospective customers. The opportunities are vast, but it is seldom easy.
One of the greatest expenses when starting out with an international marketing campaign is converting all of ones content into several different languages, so that visitors from all around the world can understand your marketing message and be convinced to buy your products. This can be time consuming and good translators don’t come cheap. However it is not worth scrimping here, as poor quality translators will leave your site riddled with errors and thus it will not have the desired affect.
Wikipedia has versions in 291 languages. It would quite obviously be folly if any marketing campaign attempted to have versions in as many languages as that, but it can be tricky to know exactly which languages to target. That’s where a new report from the British council can give some insights.
Before getting started with translating your site or marketing material, you should first plan which markets you are looking to attract customers from and then research the language trends in those markets. Some areas are far more likely to also speak English than others, and those areas where few people speak English should be translated as a priority. The Netherlands and India, for example, have fairly high rates of English speakers, whilst Latin American countries do not. Therefore prioritising a Spanish and Portuguese over Dutch might be wise, but again this will depend on your target market.
Although not always the best guide, as many native speakers might also speak second languages, comparing the numbers of native speakers provides a good starting point to understand the global language landscape.
If you are looking to sell your products internationally, it may be good to have content in the languages of those countries which are most likely to buy British goods. The chart below shows the UK's top export market, excluding those which speak English.
As previously mentioned, it is useful to know which languages tend to also have high levels of English proficiency, and which don’t. This is because you can prioritise translating your site into the languages who's speakers don't tend to also speak English, so those people can use your services.
If you are looking at translating your website, then what matters is how many internet users speak certain languages, rather than how many people there are that speak that language in the world. For example, Javanese is the 10th most spoken language in the world my number of speakers but doesn’t make the top 10 when it comes to language use on the internet.
The British council ranked the importance of languages based on a number of factors, including number of speakers, number of internet users, British exports to those regions and GDP of the countries that speak them. With that data they produce the following rankings:
This provides useful guidance when thinking about what languages to prioritise when considering translating your site or marketing material. But remember that your own market research should come first, and your target audience should heavily influence what markets you look to break into.
For more insights into selecting languages see the full report from the British Council
By Robert Allen
I was the Editor of Smart Insights between 2015-2017. I managed the blog and you will find blog articles on a range of subjects- Marketing Technology trends and latest tech developments are a regular focus, as well as exploring key marketing concepts. You can get in touch with me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. The new Editor is Carolanne Mangles.
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