Monday, August 11, 2008

Mobile Tip: What are English Internet users missing out?

English websites dominated the Internet in the early days but that quickly eroded over the years.  While It's hard press to find a major network of Internet websites without English versions, English users are a minority in the world.  Estimates for native English speakers account for just 340 million out of a population of more than six billion on Earth, but taking into account for the number of people who can understand English, that number is closer to 1.5 billion people (Wiki). 

But according to Internet World Stats, English Internet users account for only 430.8 hundred million users.  Worldwide Internet users stood at 1.46 billion users worldwide in the 2nd quarter of 2008.  English is followed by Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, and French.  As percentage goes, this is the breakdown for the top 5 languages:
  1. English  29.4%
  2. Chinese  18.9%
  3. Spanish  8.5%
  4. Japanese  6.4%
  5. French  4.7%
What are English-only users missing out? 
  • Exchange of culture and ideas.
  • Knowing what is going on around the world from the perspective of local or regional media. 
  • Know how others feel about us or you.
  • How others use the Internet and what their mobile habits are.
  • More rapid adoption of technology. 
  • The ability to increase exposure to your media or products.
Is this any of this pertinent to the average English speaker, the average American for example?  Well, being able to communicate in another tongue is definitely a benefit as far as reaching out and making connections, not to mention personal enrichment from learning about others. 

The benefit for mobile warriors who travel abroad for work even for a short time is self-evident: the ability to read and and communicate over the Internet opens up many doors for cultural exchange and expand markets, for yourself or your company. 

Let's make the economic benefits for mobile workers more obvious excluding the English Internet users, see how the other languages fare:
  1. Chinese  26.7%
  2. Spanish 12.1%
  3. Japanese  9.1%
  4. French  6.6%
  5. German  5.9%
Immediately, it's clear what the Internet landscape is like outside of the English speaking world.  As with anyone who is involved in maximizing exposure to an audience, the Chinese and Spanish Internet audience accounts for more than 400 million users.  It is not difficult to imagine China with its 1.2 billion people, We may see the number Internet users double to 500 or even 600 hundred million in a few short years

Conclusion:  Regardless of whether the interest in using the Internet is to expand education or culture exchange or economic growth, English speakers have a lot to gain by learning and developing media in another language.  As I understand my fellow mobile folks,  I'm likely preaching to the chore when it comes to the benefits of being able to communicate over the Internet.  What to do, if anything, is entirely up to you. 

Now, I'm off to Borders pick up Dummy books on learning Chinese and Spanish. 

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