It is generally assumed that the English language has gained prominence in the world as the result of globalization and that since English is presumably the business language, most people in the world – both clients and suppliers – speak and understand English.
Furthermore, it is being believed by an increasing number of people and corporations in North America that since most people in the world speak and understand English, there is less need for translations.
This geocentric view is an oversimplification of realities.
While it is correct that the internet affords corporations access to a global audience, globalization and the multiplication of free-trade agreements have dramatically increased competition.
Far from threatening the translation industry, globalization and the increased competition it entails is enhancing the need for translations.
In our increasingly competitive environment, clients around the world have become more demanding in terms of quality and personalized services. Nobody would dispute the fact the clients – be it in Asia or Latin America – would naturally be more inclined to buy a product on line if the website is written in their language. One surprising effect of globalization and the accompanying universality of Internet is that according to Aberdeen Group (a tech-tech research company in the US), while 77% on Internet users were native English speakers in 1997, that proportion has dwindled to just 32 % today. In other words, 2/3 of Internet users are native in another language than English!
Those starting figures enhance the increasing role and importance of translations.
Figures as to the number of people native in a particular language vary widely, but there it is undisputed that there are more Mandarin and Spanish native speakers in the world than native English speakers. Furthermore, Spanish is the official language in 21 countries where as only 6 have English as the official language. This speaks not only to the pre-eminence of Spanish over English in absolute terms, but also to regional disparities in both languages.
If a corporation wants to go international, not only should it feature more than English on its website, but also avoid selecting a language according to the size of its native speakers. Instead it would be wiser to target a specific country or a range of countries instead….countries where the products are likely to be most successful.