Correct and effective use of language is vitally important for businesses planning to take this opportunity to reach into
foreign markets. The spread of the internet has made it much easier for businesses to move into new markets, but success in
your home market is no guarantee of being a winner globally. Your chances can easily be spoiled by the use of poor language.
Knowing your potential foreign market by doing proper market research is also vital. Even if your site uses acceptable
language for your target country, you are wasting time and money if there is little or no demand for your product in that
market, or if your pricing is unacceptably high. Good quality design for your web-site is also of great importance.
I am a British expatriate living and working in Japan. I learned two facts soon after I moved here from England: firstly,
translation between Japanese and English is not easy, and secondly, computer based translation between these languages simply
does not work. Yet many Japanese businesses are trying to expand into foreign markets using computer translations of their
domestic websites. Japan’s largest Internet retailer goes so far as to say on its English language sites that it is machine
translated from Japanese. The result is often incomprehensible English, and much of the Japanese text, which is included in
graphical form, is not translated at all. The fact that it is also converting prices directly from the Japanese site, making
them far too high in Europe or the USA, gives the impression that the intention to enter the global market is not really
serious. But I have seen the President of this company on television saying that it is his intention to make his business a
household name worldwide. In my opinion, the English language sites of this company fall down in web design, lack of market
awareness, and most of all, understandable language. As long as this is not remedied, his words will remain, well, just
The use of well translated, effective language is the most important factor in marketing globally on the web. The Internet
has given even small businesses the opportunity to market their products or services almost anywhere in the world. But the
Internet is based on written language, so the language used must be able to be understood by the consumer. In addition, it
must also be effective in giving the right message.
I would give the following tips to any business, especially in Japan, that wants to expand its business to the English
speaking world by way of the Internet:
• Do not try to use computer translation without having it checked by a native speaker, or better still, don’t use it at all.
• If you have your translation done by a non native speaker, again have it reviewed.
• Have the translation done by a native speaker, or a service that at least offers proof reading by a native speaker.
In addition to language and market research, visual design of a web-site is also very important. Web design in Japan is very
different from the West, web-sites often looking jumbled and quite disorganised compared to those of American and European
businesses. Shopping sites in Japan tend to have far more products on a page, and this approach seems to be attractive to
local consumers. However, to Western eyes the design can appear slightly unattractive. So I would advise companies planning
to expand their web presence to other countries to look at their targets’ web designs and consider changing the appearance of
their foreign sites.
The growth of the World Wide Web has made it possible to run a business operation in many countries. However, it is easy to
assume that what may bring you success at home will bring you equal rewards in foreign markets. And it can be relatively
easy, as long as you remember the three golden rules: Do your market research to ensure that demand exists and that your
pricing is right; Get your web design right; Make sure you use correct and effective language.
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