Author Archives: pangeanic

Speak to Global Customers in Their Own Language

Digital Business and Language Translation

by Manuel Herranz
In many ways, the world seems to be getting smaller. Transatlantic flights may still take hours, but there is no denying that international markets are becoming more accessible than ever due to globalization, increased connectivity and the relaxation of trade barriers. Previously, the possibility of doing business overseas was only an option for large businesses as they had extensive resources, and specialist knowledge. Fortunately, this is no longer the case as even small digital businesses can reach out to international markets in a number of ways, mostly through international websites, translation services and website localization. A digital business has the option of using a ready-made sales platform such as Amazon, offering direct online sales or seeking trading partners in the local market. Content Management Systems like WordPress, Joomla, etc., and eCommerce software like Prestashop or Magento make it easy to have a global presence…in one language.

However, in order to begin, a digital business has to get its message across to the target audience. This essentially means that you have to be able to speak your customers’ language. It is a fact that the most widely used language online is English. Therefore if you native language is not English (as it is my case) you need a translation company and good English translation services to ensure your international website looks great. To some extent, a digital business can use it as a bridging language in the corporate world, but most likely you will need translation services into several languages you are not familiar with. After all, English represents only a third of total online usage because the majority of the world population doesn’t speak English at all. There is also substantial evidence that indicates that even if people understand English, they prefer to visit websites in their own native language, if they are available.

Speak to Global Customers in Their Own Language

Plenty of surveys have been conducted and all indicate that nearly 75% of online buyers prefer to make purchases from websites in their native language. This means that even if your digital business has a product or service that can garner genuine global appeal, you may not be able to enjoy success if you aren’t able to market in the local language. This can be accomplished by working with native researchers and language translators who can provide you with the relevant cultural background and the necessary facts and figures.

A study carried out by the European Commission in 2011 showed that

  • Nine out of 10 Internet users stated that, if given a choice of languages in a website, they always visited a website in their own language.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 Europeans (that’s 20%) said they never browsed websites in any other language but their own.
  • 42% said they never purchased products and services in other languages.

The study points at the fact that while many Europeans are well-known multilinguals, they still strongly prefer to buy in their native languages.

Localizing your WebsiteIssues for website translation

The website of every digital business is basically a virtual shop window and it is usually the main asset used by your business for reaching international customers. Digital business and language translation are partners in a world where just changing the display language in a website makes it available to millions of users. New customers will often visit your website to get a better idea of your products and services. You can make use of machine language translation as they offer an easy and quick solution. However, machine translation may lead to some contextual errors, which can be corrected by native-speaking translators. They ensure that your content is factually correct and can also assist with cultural sensitivity and references. Machine translation is suitable for localizing shipping information, prices and currencies and any import and custom duties, as well as non-essential content.

Translation of other Materials

Machine language translation can also be used by digital business for marketing materials like instruction manuals, brochures and online assistance. In case of social media presence, local profiles have to be made and you may also think about using local platforms instead of globally recognized ones. This can only be done with the aid of human translators as they can help in maintaining your page.

A digital business should bear in mind that language translation is an ongoing process for reaching out to foreign markets and maintaining your position.

Optimize your website with expert keyword translations

We have dealt extensively with the need of not focusing on literal translation work when translating a website. The term website localization began to be used some years ago as an added value service involving research of terms as used in a country rather than just the translation (which may be perfectly fine) but not the preferred term people search for in the target country you are focusing. With constant changes in search algorithms, the marriage between digital business and language translation is here to stay.

Further reading: Why a Digital Publisher Needs a Translation Company as a Partner


Where do I host to avoid the Great Firewall of China?

OK, you have translated your website into Chinese, and now you wish to make all that exciting content available to more than 1,500 million people. Are you going to just add Chinese as another language on your website? You probably have heard some sites cannot be accessed from China, that payment methods are different. Foreign sites load pretty slowly – you need to avoid the great firewall of China. Thus, do you really need now to host your website in China to target visitors, clients or the general public in mainland China?

The answer is yes and no.

China is the second largest economy in the world. It will not take long for the size of the Chinese economy to surpass the US’ GDP. Many Western companies have been involving with trade in China in a way or another. Alibaba’s was valued as a Nasdaq stock on an equal footing as Facebook or Twitter. Alipay is the only reliable means of accepting payments in China, which gives it even more prominence among websites trading internationally and with problems to avoid the great firewall of China in terms of extracting payments from purchases made by Chinese shoppers. Most Fortune 500 companies have branches, factories or representative offices in China.

For many companies, either online business or “traditional economy”, the internet is playing a very significant role in finding new niches and in their day-to-day operations. I have been dealing with Chinese companies, buying and selling since the late 90’s in the last century, days when even email was not stable and access to the Internet plainly illegal sometimes. Using emails or running a website might be a sine qua non in Europe, Japan or the US and much of the world, the existence of the Great Firewall of China, makes it a real issue for speed, connection and availability. The Great Firewall Program is a program put in place by the Chinese government to monitor and filter Internet content and some sites (particularly those sites which prey Big Data and to which we so blindly hand over much of our lives and content like Google, Twitter or Facebook). Russia has Yandex as a local, specialist search engine and other social media, which more or less follows the partners of GTF like VK, or Odnokasniki, social sites that specialize in friend communities for the countries that shared a common past as part of the USSR (you can access them in English, too). China has Weibo, which merges all the features of Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and other social media into a single hub. The English version of Weibo is not prominent at all, and registration, just like for its main search engine Baidu, requires a Chinese phone number. You can try to register in Chinese with foreign telephone numbers, but will not be easy.

Captura de pantalla 2015-03-14 a las 18.31.45

All international Internet connections from and to China cannot avoid the great firewall of China and must pass through it.

The best known effect of the Great Firewall is the blocking of various, well known foreign websites in China. If a website is deemed to breach Chinese law, the government is able to prevent access from any internet connection in PRC. Some keen Internet surfers know how to avoid the Great Firewall of China via proxy or by Using virtual private networks (VPNs), but the majority of the population will not be bothered to go through the hustle of purchasing a VPN or configuring it.

Another less known effect is that due to filters in place by the Great Firewall of China, foreign websites are perceivably slow and take longer to access load and from China. If you have translated your site into Simplified Chinese (mainland China) or Traditional Chinese (Southern parts of china, Hong King and Taiwan), it is likely the Chinese section of your website will go unnoticed. Plus, if you happen to host your website in Europe or the East Coast in the US, the simple rule applies: the farther the foreign server, the slower the access is from China. However, websites hosted in the West Coast of the US, Korea, Japan, Singapore etc. will load comparatively faster.

Therefore, we recommend you consider hosting in or around China if you are targeting the Chinese public. If you run a general business website, without a lot of media content, hosting near the country will suffice to reach Chinese users, even if not as optimal as hosting locally. There are two hosting companies I can recommend from experience. One is SinoHosting ( which is focused on hosting foreign companies targeting China. It offers a good array of servers in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea which are fast to access from various regions within China. The website explains that companies targeting the Southern province of Guandong should host in Hong Kong, while those targeting Northern parts like Beijing or the Northern China should host in Korea, etc.). The second hosting company I recommend is Kowloon Hosting.

Websites blocked by the Great firewall of China are usually adult-related or political websites. The BBC has been blocked a few times. If you are not dealing with this type of areas, a normal company nad business will never be deemed as suspicious or call the attention enough to be blocked. However, you may be unlucky and share a server or IP address with a site that happened to be blocked. You would run out of luck in this case, and it would take you years to recover from such a blow as decisions are not taken fast in China – much less overrulings.

For companies that have a legal presence in China it makes sense to go through the hassle to apply for the ICP license which is required to host your website in China. Others do not have the option to host in China due to the impossibility for them to apply for the ICP license, and therefore should host at one of the locations mentioned above.