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  Internacia Lingvo
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Roberto Dondi
Word processing, html programming and the ropes 
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Archive 2000

Merkatado Esperanto
--or the 'Eden vs. Babel' paradox--

(INTRO) English multimedial artist William Blake learnt Italian when he was an old man. He wanted to read Dante's 'Divina Commedia'. German playwright Bertolt Brecht was young enamored with Françoys Villon's 'Testament', a French poem. Four poets, four languages. The poetry was a direct medium to communicate most of their extreme experiences --such as the exile or afterworld. A universal speak? Not at all. Yet they were translated into commercial languages that added broader fame.
Rhyme and reason! A sort of Babel was Warsaw when four languages were spoken by inhabitants. So L.L. Zamenhof elected to create an artificial language made of simple rules and words to overcome the barrier of many different idioms. The result is known as Esperanto [C@ www.esperanto.net]. And 'Merkatado Esperanto' means hopeful marketing, a concept I'd like to adopt for the selling via the Internet, a kind of Eden as the world wide electronic system is a promise of universal market too. But the international marketer knows the cultures and habits cannot be erased by an electronic brochure nor one-language website, i.e. English or pidgin-English. International marketing transcends the confines of a single country to measure a locally established product, service or concept by outside custom. Typically the action of marketing has to make connections with any language/culture to become a good deal for. I'm going to describe some methods to select languages for an international website, because the ultimate barrier is even and ever that babbling confusion since the biblical Tower of Babel!

PART ONE - The LIP method.
Web Marketing as process presents the stages of implementation typical of any direct marketing strategy. Direct because the WWW is more than every other sales channel an interactive medium to the customer. The mix of three basic actions such as
a--Target group identification (WHOM to speak to);
b--Selecting of the communication tool (HOW to speak them);
c--Offer presentation (WHAT to market them);
influences the result of the marketing strategy. This article affects the first factor and a half. The languages selection mirrors how much broad is --or would be-- the audience. The more languages you add the longer radius is powered to reach new customers. The scheme I sum up below is useful in building websites to market internationally. Language International Plan (LIP) numbers three steps to propel a website increasingly towards by means of translated contents. The LIP stages are: 1) jumper page; 2) complete translation; 3) national website. Jumper page is a summary of your website translated to test your offer against new audience(s). If you get good response try to improve through a full translation. First condense then expand --it's the LIP method! The same occurs when you climb higher onto a national website, that is the full translated version done with the country domain. A series of independent national sites makes a global strategy for a global product. The criteria to select languages at every step should be different with regards to the product (i.e. old or new), the distribution (i.e. Internet as unique or added channel), the system of selling (i.e. by dealers or reps or direct marketing). Let's see how different approaches get different results for a website planning.

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PART TWO - The existing markets standard.
  • Business-to-business. I worked for three years in the ceramic tiles market. For Italian manufacturers it's an international market --50 to 75% of the sales coming from export. The standard order of languages to communicate into is as follows: German (De), English (En), French (Fr), Spanish (Es) besides Italian (It). A selection for print and online catalogs, no matter who is the selling company [C@ www.irisceramica.com]. Basically special technical products --from medical supply to packaging machinery-- require less translations than consumables as English has assumed a leading role within the B-to-B relationships.
  • Consumable. Baci Perugina are delivering love messages wrapped around the chocolates. Last time I have eaten one, the inside message was translated into 5 languages: It, En, Es, Portuguese (Pt), Greek (Gr). Probably it was a limited version for South Europe and another message for Northern consumers exists. For the food category a 2-language website is already a kind of emancipation, while most famous brands tend to multiply. Campari.com makes the best with 6 different versions of its website [C@ www.campari.com].
    ...and Music. Only the music industry seems to speak a lingua franca. A simple song attends to the emotional field of consumer. Being not definetely a commodity, the music saves itself from due translation. Moreover any artist tends to speak his own personal language made of rhythm, style and rhyme --see E. Badu's Baduizm. Well, do not translate it!
  • Globalization. Major computer and IT brands are selling the same product all over the planet. So we usually find the conditions of use and license written for up to 20 countries, only in Europe. No one excluded or forgotten! Motorola website has about 15 national versions. Because it acts globally and its product is for any consumer. [C@ global.motorola.com].
  • Haute de gamme. Top notch selling products --fashion, gourmandises, architecture-- are typically using catalogs combining scarcely En/It. There's a hungry audience for them! They also reach a wide spectrum of countries with minimum effort and this policy saves money. A niche marketing eventually approaches world widely the crème de la crème who cares of English. Peck.it is selling Italian gourmet food and has a 3-language website --En, It, Japanese (Jp) [C@ www.peck.it].
  • Services. No one of us receives the telephone book as multi-language edition. We are local users. But the same service online undergoes a metamorphosis to be read by many foreigners. The standard should offer the classic options among En/Fr/De/Es/It [C@ www.paginegialle.it or www.fs-on-line.it]. Consider this 5-language standard as a level of high Web development. Services for tourism and EU government sector are the mostly opened to multi-language connections [C@ www.louvre.fr]. Actually EU online bureaus have got a shy approach which privileges at present only two languages, En plus Fr or De!

PART THREE - The Internet channel standard.
The Internet is an opportunity for national suppliers to establish or widen a market. A first step to move on, but not an easy-to-market environment. Nothing more wrong. As marketplace it has peculiar characteristics and the languages ruling the online world can deeply differ from existing markets. And a customer-centric Web cannot be else than a well language-focused site. Let's consider some criteria to evaluate the languages to translate the website into. Select by one of the following approaches:
- the number of Net users speaking a language --and in which they want to read online;
- the Internet penetration per ethnic group or population;
- the traditional list of countries that affect a product, market or sector by export value.
These criteria are driven by common sense, but you will see they can determine a deeply different selection of languages. Let's see how they work. You sell an existing product --from the old economy-- and enter the Internet channel to expand your audience. Selection is possible by languages according to estimates about the modes the Internet population accesses the Net. This is your range of languages in order of importance --first to fifth by percentage over the global Internet population (accesses in million):
  1.  49.6 English (189.6 M)
  2.  7.5 Chinese (28.7 M)
  3.  7.1 Japanese (27.3 M)
  4.  5.9 German (23.4 M)
  5.  5.0 Spanish (18.9 M)
Internet access data source: Global Internet Statistics (www.glreach.com/globstats).
If you prefer an index based on the Internet penetration in each language group, then the priority changes as follows (percentage of people online over total population per language):
  1.  58.9 English
  2.  44.5 Scandinavian / Finnish
  3.  30.0 Dutch
  4.  23.9 German
  5.  21.8 Japanese
Internet access data source: Global Internet Statistics (www.glreach.com/globstats).
Third way. On the contrary you count on existing statistics of your business/product --it doesn't matter this time the Internet specific audience-- so any language becomes rather a country listed in a traditional hierarchy, for example the most important national partners for the Italian commerce (percentage on total export value 199?):
  1.  20.4 Germany (De)
  2.  14.6 France (Fr)
  3.  7.0 U.S.A. (En)
  4.  6.6 United Kingdom (En)
  5.  5.1 Spain (Es)

Data source: ilMondo/Atlas Business.

(OUTRO) Marx Brothers were vaudeville and film comedians. Their style of acting is a byword of non sense and mish mash. I'm sure Groucho --the leader of a host of Marx Bros.-- would greet an international audience like yours with this sentence: "Meanwhile goodbye, so long, skol, prosit, salud, hasta la vista, à bientôt and ciao ciao. (Ciao ciao, if you don't know it, is an Italian greeting. It's too a dog breed that bites into your buttocks without any reason on the world)". So he wrote as from one of 'The Groucho Letters', a book offering scores of remarks about the forthcoming radio and tv marketing age. Enjoy it!
PS. Italian word 'ciao' derives from the Venetian dialect meaning 'slave (of yours)'. We are after all --after the Internet too-- slaves to the language! 

PPS. This article has been translated from the Italian version and vice versa. 

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