Think about yourself. When you have an important decision to make, you want to do it in your native language. Your first language is the “language of decision-making”.
In many respects, the world hasn’t changed a bit, regardless of geography or language. Customers have always wanted the same things. We want to comprehend what we will make a decision on. We want to gain input from our peers, so we feel comfortable we have enough information to make the right call. And, we want to do business with a company who cares about us as customers and treats us like part of their community.
A few years back, our family lived in Switzerland, a country which has German, French, Italian and Romansch as it’s four official languages. One of the greatest gifts we received, and there were many, was not the time we were up in the Alps or hanging out by one of the lakes. Rather, it was learning what it is like to make decisions outside of our comfort zone. We learned what it is like to be an outsider looking in.
It’s not fun to make decisions in a 2nd or third language. You can’t digest content online information quickly or at all. You can’t understand the nuances of a live chat. And you’re not always sure if the “deal” you saw online is the best deal. Essentially, the lack of ability to fully understand the language leads to self-doubt and a lack of trust that you are making the right decision.
So which are the languages that matter? Well, twelve languages reach approximately 90% of the online population. They are Chinese, English, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Portugese, French, German, Arabic, Hindi, Dutch and Italian.
What’s even more amazing is the pace of change. There are 298 million people online in China. 81 million in India. 67 million in Brazil. 38 million in Russia. 26.5 million in Turkey. 23 million in Iran and 20 million in Poland.
The only guarantee I can give is that the languages that matter will change significantly with time. Russia and Hindi are likely to become leading online languages within the next five years. There are over 300 million people who speak Russian today and approximately 500 million who speak Hindi.
When we work in social media, we often talk about the importance of having conversations with our customers.
Global companies will increasingly realize that having conversations in native language represents a big opportunity for companies and a future sigh of relief for customers.
Connecting with customers means speaking with them on a personal level in their language. It does not mean translating a website and crossing your fingers that it will work.
All the best, Bob