American Services In Asia:

How to Use English as a Global Language

The Limits of Localization

Our web page What is Global English? explains that localization is an essential step in marketing a product or promoting a web site internationally. However, localization will not and cannot reach a global audience because, by definition, its purpose is to penetrate specific local markets. Adding up a handful of regional markets — or even dozens of local markets — does not equal a worldwide audience.

As mentioned on that web page, there are presently 393 languages that each have more than 1,000,000 speakers, with 85 of them spoken by at least 10,000,000 people. However, the options for web site localization are nearly always confined to a small set of languages, which are selected to reach countries that already have high numbers of internet users.

Localization was logical and cost-effective in the 20th century, but it will not work as a strategy for the global dissemination of knowledge in the 21st century. Internet penetration increased to:

with dramatic increases on all continents and even in the poorest countries.

As of 2012, Romania and Turkey each had more than 40% of their population online, while Thailand and Vietnam had surpassed 30% penetration. All of these are large countries whose national languages rarely appear in the list of options offered by localization companies. As time goes on, it will be necessary to localize into more and more languages in order to avoid neglecting large segments of the world's population.

At present, localizing into all of the top 10 languages spoken by internet users will fail to serve about 18% of the world's online population who are not native speakers of any of those languages.

Global English

The most cost-effective way to ensure that people from all linguistic backgrounds have a reasonable chance of comprehending your web site is to use "Global English." This means writing your content in clear, globally understood English: smoother sentence structure, fewer idioms, less jargon. Simplifying your English will have minimal effect on your style but it will greatly enhance the ability of non-Americans to understand your writing.

Here is a real example of web content that was written in American English:

People who grew up speaking English as their first language ("mother tongue") will easily understand idiomatic phrases like "fun looks" and "what works" as well as the ungrammatical structure of the second sentence. Unfortunately, the idioms and trendy syntax will confuse many of the millions of internet users who can read English but do not have native fluency in our language.

Here is the same web content written in Global English:

Localization is still important because most people prefer to read content in their native language. However, if their native language is not among those you've chosen to localize into, they would much rather read Global English than English which is full of idioms, buzzwords, euphemisms, and unexplained acronyms.

Why It Works

There are two reasons why an English version works internationally. The first reason is that people who are incompletely fluent in English usually can read the language more easily than they speak it. If you're not very fluent in a foreign language, you can go over written words several times at your own pace and use a dictionary — procedures that would be socially awkward during a conversation.

The second reason is that a user who wants a translation can get it done locally. This can be a casual, low-cost process if the user seeks essential details rather than full comprehension. For example, someone could download one of your English-language pages and then ask a bilingual friend to explain it. In some countries, it is common for a group of young people to surf together at a cyber cafe, with one of them fluent enough to translate the English-language pages they encounter.

The bottom line is that it will always be cost-effective to have your web site written in clear, globally understood English. If you later decide to localize your content for a specific market, Global English will be easier for the translator(s) to work with, thereby saving you time and money. And if your web site attracts visitors who can't read any of its localized versions, they will appreciate the fact that your English-language pages are easier to understand than those of most other sites.

What We Can Do For You

In addition to writing and editing content to make it more accessible, we can reorganize your web pages to make your site easier to navigate.

For fees and other information, email us.

To understand more about Global English as a writing style, see the Frequently Asked Questions page of our web site.

For statistics on the growing number of internet users, see InternetWorldStats.com which is updated several times a year.

For statistics on the number of internet users who speak various languages, see Top Ten Languages at InternetWorldStats.com

For information about the most popular languages worldwide, visit Ethnologue.

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