Not in English? Lost in translation


English and the US still rule the Internet.

Once upon a time the Internet was segmented by country, hence many country specific domains with the US taking mostly .com domains. At one point there was a venture capital firm that would look at what was happening in the United States and recreate it in Europe (Rocket Ventures). Those days are over though as the world is now fully global. There are only two Internets now, the main internet and the Chinese Internet. There was recently a few snafu’s that happened on the Chinese one that we might be able to learn from. 

Examples from the Other Internet

A few influencers pushed a new L’oreal product saying that it was the best price available, only for consumers to later find that the same product could be bought directly from L’oreal for less. After some massive push back, L’oreal offered refunds to the customers that paid the higher price. Could there be language semantics between best and cheapest? After all, sometimes the best things are NOT the cheapest.

In another example, there’s been a challenge with Cartier, for example, referring to its influencers as friends whereas most people would want them to say guests. It appears that guests infers a short term relationship, as in, visiting for a while, while friends implies a longer term relationship. Regardless these terms have resulted in large blow backs for the luxury firms involved.

foreign languages translation or learning language 2021 08 27 21 13 56 utc

Who is following?

The challenge is that most influencers are now global and even if a particular influencer is based in a country that does not mean that a majority of that influencer’s audience is also from that country. In fact, there are many influencers that have audiences that are from other countries. Recently we ran a test on some influencers to determine make up of their audience.

The methodology was to look at one’s Twitter location and put this into Google (this would translate Big Apple into New York, New York, for example). Then take the names of the followers and run them against the names database which takes location as a parameter, for example Jamie in Spain typically is male versus Jamie in the United States is typically female. Nearly 6 out of 10 times the results were completely different from what was self reported in media kits or on websites.

Thus, even the influencers themselves sometimes don’t know whom they are speaking to. It’s been said that comedy does not translate across languages and cultures. To try to remedy that, many influencers try to post in a language that they think a majority or plurality of their followers would understand. Yet as we previously demonstrated, most influencers do not know who their followers even are.

English still leads by a lot

We are lucky that English is recognized as the language of the Internet with more than half (54%) of sites using it. In second place is Russia with 6% of all websites. You are lucky if you are fluent in English. Due to the copious amounts of English speaking media there will always be opportunity to pick up some vernacular (just avoid sounding too much like Samuel L. Jackson!) if you are not a native speaker.

multicultural business partners talking on meeting 2021 09 01 12 09 21 utcIn Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers chapter “The ​​Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes,” he mentions that when countries turned to English for aviation, plane crashes decreased. In countries with “you” formal, there was no longer any hierarchy. Any crew member could alert any other crew member or the captain if something was wrong. Furthermore, certain keywords, like “emergency” are known to be a serious situation. 

The near Future

Perhaps there is something we can learn from this as Cartier fans debate whether influencers are guests or friends, or what a best price really means. Stay tuned as the space will only continue to grow and as influencers outside of the Chinese firewall continue to influence people they have no idea they are influencing! English seems to be a safe bet as it is pretty objective and straightforward but who knows. There will always be an exception especially as we race into space and the rest of the universe!

Have you done a cross border promotion? What was your experience? Drop us a note!

Not in English? Lost in translation via @famecastmedia

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