Local Content: Growth of Foreign Languages Online
In recent years, a growing number of online companies and organisations have started to provide content in different languages to target foreign language speakers. Wikipedia was the first to start the trend of providing multilingual content through its contributors, and as a non-profit organisation with vast resources, it has achieved impressive results over time and now covers 283 language. Commercial companies, on the other hand, had to consider the business model of adding multilingual support especially considering the costs and resources required to provide content in foreign languages. However with the growth of foreign languages users online and the introduction of Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs), the opportunity has rapidly overtaken the investment costs. Websites of multinational companies now support an average of 23 languages, a substantial increase from the earlier days when the average language supported was less then 10.
Yahoo recently announced that it will have its content ready in eight regional languages of India by the end of 2012. Similarly, their local website will be redesigned for the target market to provide a relevant and engaging experience to Indian web users. Around 80 per cent of web users in India use Yahoo to read content on a regular basis. The growth of local Indian languages online influenced the company’s decision to expand aggressively in the current year.
The demand for content in foreign languages is increasing with the growth of foreign language speakers online. While social networks like Facebook used a crowdsourcing platform to translate their site content rapidly, others with less content use professional translation services to achieve their objectives. Challenges exist though for some regional languages where there is a lack of computer literate individuals who are fluent in English as well as their own language. Efforts are being made to get regional languages ready for the web and continue their growth online. Languages like Telugu which has an estimated population of 100mil is currently being encoded for the internet under the Unicode system.
Continued web development and provisions for foreign language speakers are being utilised by large companies so far. With more companies readying themselves for multilingual content, the internet will become more diverse linguistically and specific to user requirements.