Click to enlarge. Source: http://googleresearch.blogspot.com/2011/07/languages-of-world-wide-web.html

Language Barriers Visualized [graph]

Globalization seems to be a phenomenon which is here to stay. For some people globalization is a possibility and for others it is a threat. The latter group says that globalization is going to kill local cultures, habits and languages. These people can now be less concerned about the issue, because language barriers still exist.

In the graph below you can see the language barriers in action. It shows how much or little separated each language is linked from each other. The graph tells for example how many of the sites in German language link to sites in French (0.01). We can draw interesting conclusions from the graph.

Click to enlarge. Source: http://googleresearch.blogspot.com/2011/07/languages-of-world-wide-web.html

We can assume that when a person visits an interesting site he or she shares the link with others in social media sites or in a blog posting or in other location. This means that if for example many French people visit German sites often there should be many links from French sites to German sites and vice versa. Likewise, if French people don’t visit German sites often there is only small number of links.

Like the graph illustrates, there are surprisingly little connections between languages. Even when people do understand other languages, they usually visit sites in their own language. For example, French people commonly study Spanish at schools. However, they don’t commonly visit Spanish web sites. And although Germans often study French, they don’t usually visit French sites. And the same applies to almost any other language.

There are couple of possible reasons for the lack of links between different languages. First, the content might already be translated to many languages, and people can choose in which language they read the content. People tend to choose the language they understand best. Secondly, people might find foreign language content uninteresting. This scenario is only theoretical because we cannot assume that the attractiveness of the content is related to the used language. Thirdly, people might not fully understand the content if it is written with other than their native language. If they don’t understand, they may not want to link to the content.

All this confirms the common opinion that you have to communicate in people’s own language to reach them. In the future, machine translation quality will surely improve and lower the language barrier.

 


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Published by

Multilizer / Niko Papula

I am managing director of Multilizer, a Finnish software company specialising in software for enhancing translation quality, speed and cost.