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World Wide Web – Is it covering the World?

Think Global, Act local

Is Globalisation touching India?


Most businesses' traditional boundaries and marketplace definitions are being made irrelevant and getting redefined by globalization. Such concepts as borders are becoming archaic, with the integration of economies to a global scale, both geographically as well as market segments.  


While the rest of the world outside of English-speaking countries are coming online faster than we can think, what is the state of affairs, and how does that impact our businesses in India? How seriously do we take the concept to "go global"?   

In short, where in the world is Globalization leading Indians?  


World Wide Web – Is it covering the World? 


Despite the fact that the Web has been international in scope right from the time it was born, the predominant mass of Web sites are written in English. Sites are typically designed visually for Western culture, and rely on an enormous body of information that is by and large focused on the Western world. As more and more Web sites realize the benefits of bringing their products and services to diverse, global markets, the more demand there will be on information generators to understand how to put the World into World Wide Web. 



Think Global, Act local 


Statistics state that nearly half of today's on-line users are English-speaking. An estimated figure of more than 430 million people from non-English-speaking countries was online way back in 2003. But according to Nicholas Negroponte (Director of the MIT Media Lab), 2002 more than one billion users would be online, because many people will be using one computer (without owning it), in third-world countries.  


Successful Marketing always takes place in the language of the target market. 


There is a wrong perception in much of the business world that the entire online world speaks English, and so companies don't need a multilingual site or promotion. Two very basic problems here are:  

  1. Dutch, Danes and Swedes read English just fine, and yet they surf in their own language. They live their life in their own language, not in English. If you want to attract their attention, your site has to go where they are, that is, use online marketing techniques in their own language.  
  2. English is a native language to only seven countries  of the world and is readily spoken by much of the population in Benelux, Scandinavia and India. It is not understood well in Germany. Not in Japan. And certainly not in Southern European countries, South America or China. If a Website is selling IT products, English is usually sufficient.  But for other services/products, the deeper into the population one goes, the more translation is necessary.  


You may get convinced more, if you were to look at your online competition, no matter what country they are from.  Today, nearly one-half of top corporate sites are multilingual. If you have competitors who are more serious about the world market than you are, you will gradually lose ground to these competitors.  


Translation – the only tool to meaningful globalization 


If these arguments have convinced you to develop a multilingual site, you can start with just one page, or a few important pages, in the languages of important target markets. (To learn which languages are most represented on the Internet, look at various statistical data available online).  Use these language gateways in the countries speaking those languages. 


Over time, it will be clear which languages are most important, and more Websites can be translated. 


Translation – the Indian Great Divide 


While the whole world is fast removing all barriers and on it’s way towards the boom on the Internet, its penetration in India is still very much restricted to the urban middle or high class. The simple reason for this is the language barrier. Nearly all contents of the web being in English, the critical mass (and considering India is a billion people plus country, this is enormous) has been automatically left behind from not only access to the knowledge surge but also reaching out to the world. The opposite also holds true. Let us not forget that this huge section of non-English speaking people are also not being covered by giant corporate houses who find India one of the greatest marketing opportunities in the world.   


Indian Bias towards English    


At the risk of sounding judgmental, it is a fact that Indians have a die-hard attitude towards the English language. Anyone who cannot communicate in this language is rejected as “rural” or “illiterate”. This has resulted amongst many, the following developments in modern-day India: 


1.      Strong preference of Indian families towards English as the “right” medium of education (higher and middle-level) for their children. 

2.      Students are compelled to join English medium schools, with the looming future threats of unavailability of good jobs, higher education, good matrimonial prospects, etc. 

3.      Top Indian educational institutions are always English medium. 

4.      Those who study in their mother tongue, like vernacular languages like Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam Gujarati, etc., are found inadequate in any form of competitive examination, higher education, jobs, career options etc., as they cannot compete with others. 


There is a tremendous amount of apathy noticed in other fields as well : 


  1. Role of media. Irrespective of whether it is print or electronic, Indian languages are rarely supported by the new-age media. 
  2. Computer education is compulsorily in English. Thus, students fluent in their respective mother tongues (State-specific languages) are permanently barred from enjoying its benefits.  
  3.  Language software and hardware are prohibitively expensive, and beyond reach of the common man. 
  4.  Computer peripherals like keyboards are not regional language-friendly. Even the fonts are not standardized.  
  5. There has been no initiative to create an online Dictionary for regional languages in India. 


All the above have resulted in a complete failure of growth prospects of the online-business or computer-related jobs, especially if the incumbent is rich in his mother tongue but poor in English. 


How to bridge this expanding gap? 


When we talk of translation as an effective tool to bridge any gap in the communication between the speaker/writer and listener/reader, we should not restrict our thoughts to India and the world only. There are 22 official languages within this country and the opportunity of translating any two co-related languages is immense. 


The translation market in India 


The market consists of three basic segments. The individual translator, the translating agencies and the end users (who may have sub segments as well). If we were to take a bird’s eye view of the total Indian language market and the incredible opportunity the translation industry may provide, and turn every weakness of the market into an opportunity, the scenario looks very appealing. In reality however, it is far from being so. The key issues are: 

  1. The entire industry is extremely fragmented and disorganized.  
  2. Needs not only restricted to internet, websites, etc but also extends to everyday reading, legal, travel, health and other related issues.  
  3. Diffused market – no clear indication or focus on the priority of each language needed for translation 
  4. Multiplicity of fonts in every language. 
  5. Apathy of media and other Authorities towards recognition of translating as a profitable and worthy profession. 



 The current translator scenario in India vis-à-vis the world 


While there are currently some translation experts operating individually and some big and small Agencies operating in the country, the overall picture is far from encouraging.  

·        Lack of unity amongst those in the profession. Each remains isolated in his own sphere. 

·        The talents of many worthy individuals and agencies remain unrepresented in the worldwide arena of translators. 

·        Uncompetitive rates. Grossly underpaid, as a result. 

·        Lack of unity results in price undercutting, thereby harming all concerned.  

·        Lack of quality consciousness. 

·        Working against unrealistic deadlines set by international clientele. 


 Problems faced by Indian Translators 


 As discussed this is a rather unorganized market. It is no wonder then that the problems faced by the operatives are predictable: 

  • Lack of proper training on the subject. 
  • Poor marketing skills. 
  • Zero networking amongst professionals. 
  • Lack of recognition, both at the national and at the international level. 
  • Inadequate and expensive tools. 
  • Lack of any formal guide or Dictionary in the subjects. 
  • Erratic payment structure. 

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Getting our act together 


Under the situation as cited above, the greatest need of the hour is perhaps the formation of an Association. The reasons are: 


·        To defend and represent the interests of the individual as well as an Agency 

·        Adopt more professional approach to the entire business of translation. 

·        To provide credibility and recognition to the profession 

·        Ensue and assure quality in performance. 

·        Ensure international exposure 

·        Access to professional networking opportunities. 

·        Instill ethical practices in all operations. 

·        Access to world-class training. 

·        Forum for extensive and intensive interaction. 

·        Create more job opportunities. 

 For translating into Indian languages contact

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