According to a feature in The Guardian, “English now represents just one language in an online linguistic elite.” The top 10 languages of English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, German, French and Malaysian form 82% of all online content, according to the same source. And, it adds, “the universe of information on the internet looks very different from one language to the next,” implying that the collective experience of speakers of one language may be very different from that of another.
But why should publishers go to the trouble of translating their content for readers that they might not be able to monetize or even retain as long-term readers?
Translation as a venue for representation
Ethnologue, a leading language resource, says that there are 7,097 living languages in the world. Of this, roughly 40% are endangered or dying out, and 23 languages account for more than half of the world’s population.
Translation, when it’s used in digital media, can become an avenue for representation for minority languages, or underrepresented languages, keeping them in use and alive. From a different study, translation for minority languages becomes “a social act,” an act of bridging languages, rather than its more “canonical counterparts.” In representing language demographics that are often overlooked, the culture of those languages can become highlighted as well.
What translators like Translators Without Borders do is provide avenues for representation. Translators without Borders is a non-profit organization that focuses on critical humanitarian and international development efforts worldwide. They have translated over 50 million words for non-profit organizations, as part of humanitarian crisis response, and health and education programming, as well as putting minority languages in the forefront of the translation industry.
Translation services as a way for publishers to globalize
If translation can provide minority language and culture representation, on the other side of the spectrum, translation can also pave the way for globalization. It can be a way for news media to globalize, by providing translation in all aspects of their work: through website translation, document translation, marketing translation, interpretation, and more.
One example of a media organization that has successfully globalized is the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). The BBC reaches 279 million people worldwide via TV, online, apps, and social media. It uses translation to globalize and operates in more than 40 languages around the world from Pidgin to Korean.
Translation as a solution for rare languages
Translation services can help rare languages thrive and prosper – for example, Inuktitut and Cherokee – as well as help publishers serve these communities better. They also provide a way to preserve rare languages for future generations. Translation services are also a way to localize different languages and add a strong cultural component. For example, The Guardian’s Australian edition has localized into Australian culture, while using strictly Australian English.
According to CSA translation research, “Fortune 500 companies were reported to be 2.04 times more likely to improve profits and 1.27 times more likely to generate more earnings per share when they invested in translation services.” And according to Adotas, “86% of localized mobile advertisements performed better than their English counterparts, showing a 22% and 42% increase in conversion and click-through rates respectively.”
In short, by translating or localizing into different languages, publishers can extend their global footprint in a way that honours and respects local cultures, which in turn helps drive reader engagement. The wider societal impact of preserving local culture also can’t be underestimated…
Ofer Tirosh, CEO
Tomedes, one of the world’s leading translation services, broadens the horizons of publisher clients by providing language solutions that empower digital businesses to expand internationally.