Multilingual In Global Web Sites Research Paper

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In the information age represented by the Internet and the World Wide Web, the language representation online has evolved from the monolinguality of one English language into the multilinguality of more than 1,000 languages (Crystal, 2001). As a natural outcome, multilingual Web sites have become a common ground for online communication for peoples across national boundaries. On the Internet, Web users spend more time and come back more often to the Web sites that are in their native language and appeal to their cultural sensibilities. Visitors to a Web site would stay twice as long if the content on the Web site were available in their own language. Their willingness to buy something online increases by at least four times if the Web site is localized to meet their needs to thoroughly research the product and the company. (DePalma, 2006; Enos, 2001; Schreiber Translations, 2007; WorldLingo, 2006). According to an Internet Executive ePanel done by International Data Corporation (IDC) in 2000, adding multilingual capability to a company’s Web site significantly increases global e-commerce revenue up to three times (Parr & McManus, 2000). Additionally, the statistics provided by Internet World Stats, an international Web site specializing in Internet usage and population statistics from 233 countries and regions, show that between the years of 2000 and 2007, Internet usage has increased 248.8% in Asia, 638.4% in Africa, 491.4% in the Middle East, and 433.4% in Latin America and the Caribbean (2007a). With such a steady and rapidly growing non-English-speaking population on the Internet, multilingual Web sites have become an important phenomenon that involves issues of language, culture, and technology. This growing population continues to create new challenges for multilingual communication in global e-commerce. Therefore, we need to make sure that the Internet as a multilingual community will allow every individual, every culture, every language, and every technology to contribute to and benefit from such a multilingual online world. This research-paper has provided an in-depth discussion on some interesting aspects of multilingual issues in global e-commerce Web sites, focusing on the main challenges and major solutions. Practical recommendations will be also discussed in detail. All of these would lead to a better understanding of multilingual issues in global e-commerce Web sites, so that (a) the obstacles created by language barriers could be removed, (b) the misunderstandings brought by cultural differences would be avoided, and (c) the problems caused by technological difficulties could be solved.

This research-paper discusses multilingual issues in global e-commerce Web sites, focusing on the major challenges and main solutions. Future trends are also outlined for multilingual Web sites in global e-commerce.

Internet: From Monolingual To Multilingual

At the end of 1998, among the Internet population, 58% were English speaking and 42% were non-English speaking. The dominance of English on the Internet came to an end in 2000 when the number of non-English-speaking users surpassed the number of English-speaking users (Global Reach, 2004). According to Global Reach, a marketing communications consultancy that has been tracking non-English-speaking online populations since 1995, in December 2000, 49.1% of Internet users spoke English, while 50.9% of Internet users did not speak English (2004). Since then, the non-English-speaking population on the Internet has been steadily growing larger and larger. According to the Internet World Stats Web site, non-English-speaking Internet users reached 70.5% on March 10, 2007. Until this day, the ten most popular languages on the Internet were English (29.5%), Chinese (14.3%), Spanish (8%), Japanese (7.7%), German (5.3%), French (5.0%), Portuguese (3.6%), Korean (3.1%), Italian (2.8%), and Arabic (2.6%). Obviously, more than half (52.4%) of all Internet users are from a small number of non-English-speaking countries in East Asia and Europe, and many of them might be limited to their native language for accessing information on the Internet. This means that the Internet is no longer an English-dominated technology and is continuing to become much more popular with its multilinguality. The statistics also show that in 2005, 4 of the top 5 Internet-using nations were non-English speaking, namely China, Japan, Germany, and India (Internet World Stats, 2007b). Internet usage growth in traditional strongholds such as the United States and the United Kingdom has flatlined. Future growth is predicted to be strong in non-English-speaking countries such as China, Japan, Germany, India, South Korea, Italy, France, Brazil, and Russia (Computer Industry Almanac, Inc. 2004). Such a rapid increase in the number of non-English-speaking Internet users strongly implies that while the Internet is becoming more multilingual, it is more crucial and challenging for companies to create and maintain multilingual Web sites to gain a greater competitive edge in the Internet global marketplace (Appleby, 2003; Perrault & Gregory, 2000; Seilheimer, 2004; Starr, 2005).

A Web site is primarily a marketing tool, whether it is being used to promote a product or a service or just to spread the word about an organization or an organization’s activities. Even if the main goal of your site is not to sell something, you have created it and posted it because you want people to spend time looking at it. If indeed you are ultimately trying to sell a product or service, your best chances at accomplishing that are by keeping people interested and coming back to your site for the information that is there. People will spend more time and come back more often to sites that are in their native language and appeal to their cultural sensibilities (Schreiber Translations, 2007). Numerous companies provide technologies and services for companies that are interested in having multilingual Web sites to meet the needs of their customers in global e-commerce. Also, numerous scholars research both theoretical and practical aspects of Web site multilinguality in global e-commerce. In addition, numerous publications offer advice and guidance for building and maintaining multilingual Web sites in global e-commerce (King, 2004; Levy, 2001; Nantel & Glaser, 2004; Payne, 2005; Schneider, 2005; Singh & Boughton, 2005; WorldLingo, 2006; Wiirtz, 2005; Yunker, 2003).

Global E-Commerce And Multilingual Web Sites

E-commerce refers to commercial activities in a global marketplace that take place over a computer network, usually the Internet. Because of the international nature of the Internet, the companies that engage in e-commerce ultimately use their Web sites to conduct commercial and noncommercial activities in a global e-commerce environment. Global e-commerce is about providing business environments in a format that is useful to all customers, and it is about catering to different markets with different language backgrounds, measurement systems, cultural sensibilities, and preferences (Schneider, 2005; Westland & Clark, 2002). With Internet technologies, people who are doing global e-commerce are able to buy, sell, and market products. Global e-commerce makes the best use of any of the Internet applications, such as Web sites, e-mail, instant messaging, online auctions, online forums, Web services, blogs, and so forth (Reynolds, 2004; Schneider, 2005). Furthermore, for any company that is serious about winning the competitive edge in global e-commerce, the better way to success is to develop and maintain a multilingual Web site (Ghanem, 2001; Ott, 1999; Payne, 2005).

Along with the monolingual to multilingual evolution of the Internet, more and more non-English-language Web sites were developed to meet the rising needs of the non-English-speaking Internet users all over the world. For example, Yahoo! is one of the earlier companies that made successful efforts in launching the Yahoo! France and Yahoo! Japan Web directories specifically for French-speaking and Japanese-speaking Internet users (Jenkins, 1997). Since then, major companies have been moving steadily to multilingualize their Web sites. According to a study done by thebigword, a translation service company, 58% of Fortune 500 companies in the United States currently have multilingual Web sites (2006). For example, Coca-Cola, the number one global brand that sells products in more than 100 countries and regions, has more than 100 Web sites in more than 30 languages. Nike does business in more than 140 countries and makes more money outside the United States than it does within the country. One of the two priorities set forth by CEO Philip Knight in Nike’s 2001 annual report was to become a truly global company. Its Web site offers information in 13 languages, including the 10 most popular languages on the Internet that are used by more than 80% of Internet users (Internet World Stats, 2007b). The study done by thebigword also found out there is a slight correlation between the size of the company and the multilinguality of its Web site. Although many Fortune 500 companies, large or small, have multilingual Web sites, 70% of the largest 20 companies have some degree of localized content in different languages. For the 20 smallest Fortune 500 companies, the proportion of their Web sites with multilingual content falls to 50% (thebigword, 2006).

There are numerous ways for a company to have multilingual components on its Web site (Dempsey & Sussman, 1999; King, 2004; Payne, 2005; Stoyanova, 2005). The first way is “one language, one Web site,” which means that a company has a separate Web site for each language. This usually ends up in a separate domain as well. For example, McDonald’s, with over 20,000 restaurants in over 100 countries, has its primary Web site in English and language-specific Web sites for 61 countries. The URL of its Web site in Simplified Chinese for Mainland China is www.mcdonalds.com.cn/, and the URL of its Web site in Traditional Chinese for Taiwan is www.mcdonalds.com.tw/. Each has a different domain name. Another way is to have Web pages in different languages embedded in the subdomains of the primary Web site. For instance, IBM’s primary Web site URL is www.ibm.com, and its Web site in Simplified Chinese for Mainland China is www.ibm.com/cn/, while its Web site in Traditional Chinese for Taiwan is www.ibm.com/tw/. They both share the same domain with the primary Web site in English. The other way is to have different languages accessible on the same Web page on the same Web site. An examples is the search engine giant Google. When using a non-English query to search for English Web pages, the search results would be in both languages on the same Web page. Another example can be found on Web sites that provide Web-based translation services because it is inevitable to include multilingual content on the same Web page.

For a company targeting customers in global ecommerce, developing a multilingual Web site should reach beyond just translating the original Web content into different languages for different locales. With a well-designed and well-implemented multilingual Web site for a given audience, a company could adequately meet their information needs. For instance, a Chinese version of a corporate Web site should promote information relevant to a Chinese audience. Overcoming potential cultural barriers is possible when users are able to navigate, understand, and interact on the Web site in their native language. In addition, a properly designed multilingual Web site has potential for an increase in sales. If an e-commerce Web site is localized with a few of the major world languages, that is, Spanish, French, German, and Italian, there is potential for a 400% increase in sales. The benefits and advantages of having a successful multilingual Web site come from multiple levels and in various areas, and some major ones include expanded global e-commerce presence and branding, increased online visibility and accessibility, more effective channels of communication, higher and better credibility, easier customization, improved customer satisfaction, greater competitive advantage, and increased revenues and profit potential. When we all are thinking globally and acting locally, multilingual Web sites will certainly continue to remain a necessity for businesses and organizations that are engaged in global e-commerce (Cyr & Trevor-Smith, 2004; Hillier, 2003; King, 2004; Lingo Systems, 2006; Payne, 2005; Schneider, 2005; Starr, 2005; Woldering, 2006).

Major Challenges For Multilingual Web Sites

It is obvious that the power of the Internet is in its ability to enable people of different languages, cultures, and countries to communicate and share information. A Web site should be multilingual in order to be accessible to a larger audience, thus providing the same information in more than one language, such as Chinese, French, Italian, Korean, and Japanese. EuroNews, the first multilingual Web site in Europe, was launched on January 1, 1993, and it simultaneously covered world news from a European perspective in seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish (EuroNews, 2006). A typical multilingual Web site should contain a mixture of global content and local content. The global content needs to be presented in many languages for customers all over the world and should cover product information, technical support documents, tutorials, corporate profiles, worldwide branding messages, and the design of the Web page itself. The local content has to be written for each target language audience and should include locally available products, local promotions, sales and advertising campaigns, and local points of purchase indices. While the global content is applicable everywhere and is relatively insensitive to national or cultural differences, the local content provides the most relevant information to convince users that the Web site fits in their culture (Boyd, 2006; Hopkins, 2000; Schneider, 2005; WorldLingo, 2006; Yunker, 2003). If a company wants to sell products in China, Taiwan, and the Middle East, it would be strategically risky for the company not to include information in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese, and both Hebrew and Arabic on its Web site. With a Web site only in English, the company is only aiming at a limited range of Internet customers. The change of its Web presence from monolingual to multilingual would provide the company with a greater opportunity to attract non-English-speaking online users to its Web site. With such an effort in developing and maintaining a multilingual Web site, the company would embrace endless prospects in terms of expansion and increased revenue.

Adding multilinguality to an English Web site is not as simple as it appears to be. There are various factors, either linguistic or cultural, to consider before putting informational content on a multilingual Web site. The following are a few examples of the impact of language and culture on multilingual Web sites (Boyd, 2006; Cunningham, 2005; Esselink, 2000; Payne, 2005).

  • Direct translation of words, phrases, and metaphors can cause misunderstandings in the target language. Try to avoid direct translation when necessary.
  • Humorous expressions appreciated in one language may be regarded as offensive in another language. Always ask native speakers for verification.
  • Pay attention to language variants. A Web site targeting Mainland China customers should use Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese should be used for customers in Taiwan.
  • The style of the language should fit the perceptions of the target audience. Using the wrong language for the wrong reader on the localized Web site will lead to a misunderstanding of the Web site or the company.
  • It is essential to evaluate the target language, culture, and society before the information on the English Web site is transferred to the target Web site. To understand a concept or product, one culture relies heavily on information-rich writing, while another culture relies more on images. Their two cultures should be dealt with differently.

Since a multilingual Web site is more complicated than a monolingual Web site, its design and implementation brings new challenges and problems for the company as well as the developer of the multilingual Web site (King, 2004; Tonella, Ricca, Pianta, & Girardi, 2006). The major challenges for multilingual Web sites in global e-commerce are (a) language barriers, (b) cultural preferences, (c) technological difficulties, (d) technical differences, (e) political factors, and (f) legal constraints. The following are brief descriptions of these challenges with some examples.

Language Barriers

They could create obstacles to effective communication on a multilingual Web site.

  • Languages around the world differ in display, alphabet, grammar, and syntactical rules. For example, such languages as European French and German do not have a one-to-one mapping between upper- and lowercase characters, while most non-Latin-character-based languages, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese, do not even use the concept of lower- and uppercase letters (MSDN Library, 2007).
  • Many idioms and expressions may have different meanings when literally translated into another language. Regional variants of the same language also exist. For example, Simplified Chinese is mainly used in Mainland China, and Traditional Chinese is mainly used in Taiwan. The French spoken in France is very different than that spoken in Canada (Goswami, 2003).

Cultural Preferences

They could lead to either a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of content on a multilingual Web site.

  • People have different cultural preferences in different countries and regions. For example, Asian people are accustomed to being greeted by their surnames and could feel uncomfortable if they were addressed by their first names when visiting a Web site.
  • Symbols, icons, and colors may have different associations in different cultures. For example, some icons, such as a house, a shopping cart, or a check mark, may not be appropriate or make sense in all locales (Goswami, 2003).

Technological Difficulties

They could cause problems for the development and maintenance of a multilingual Web site.

  • A lack of a standard encoding language for operating systems and applications (e.g., single-byte coding for European languages, double-byte coding for East Asia languages, and bi-directional coding for Middle East languages) has made it hard to share data and even harder to support a multilingual user interface (MSDN Library, 2007).
  • Bandwidth limitations can reduce accessibility to multilingual Web sites. If the Web site is graphics intensive, users may have problems loading the Web pages in countries or regions where bandwidth is more limited. A global e-commerce company could offer two versions of Web sites to compensate for slower bandwidth (Schreiber Translations, 2007).

Technical Differences

They could cause difficulties for the design and implementation of a multilingual Web site.

  • Using credit cards for shopping online is a preferred payment method in North America, but not all countries adopt this preference. Japanese people avoid using credit cards, and Chinese customers do not use credit cards for online shopping. In this case, multilingual Web sites for global e-commerce must provide multiple payment mechanisms for various customers from different countries.
  • There are different standards for dates, temperatures, time, telephone numbers, addresses, and units of measure. For example, the English system of weights and measures is used by people in the United States, while the metric system is used by people in rest of the world; when representing dates, people in rest of the world use DD/MM/YYYY, but people in the United States use MM/DD/YYYY (Schreiber Translations, 2007).

Political Factors

They could affect the content on and or access to a multilingual Web site.

  • Politically sensitive content on a multilingual Web site may cause problems in some countries. China has very strict policies regarding what information and content can or cannot be put on a Web site. Therefore, a Web site targeting consumers in China may have to cut any politically sensitive content to reduce risks of offending the Chinese government.
  • Some countries oppose a policy of free access to information and limit use of the Internet. For instance, any information on Falun Gong (a religious group banned in Mainland China) is prevented from being accessed or transferred. A Web site with such information would be deemed undesirable and blocked by the government (Jia, 2006).

Legal Constraints

They could affect the operation and maintenance of a multilingual Web site.

  • Countries have different laws that affect global e-commerce in general and in particular areas such as privacy with respect to data collection and copyright law. For instance, legal information such as disclaimers, privacy policies, and copyright information must adhere to local market regulations and laws (Goswami, 2003).
  • There are differences in treatment of free speech and international transfer of data in different countries and regions. For example, China would not tolerate anyone who wants to exercise freedom of expression. In June 2000, Huang Qi, the man who launched China’s first human rights Web site, was arrested and accused of attempting to overthrow the state (Human Rights Watch, 2001).

Definitions Of Four Terms

Before we discuss some main solutions to meet the challenges for multilingual Web sites in global e-commerce, it would be helpful to first define the following terms: (a) Web site translation, (b) Web site internationalization, (c) Web site globalization, and (d) Web site localization.

Web Site Translation

Translation means directly reproducing site text from one language into another. Although effective translation will account for differences in sentence structure or idiomatic expressions, it will not alter the substance of content. For example, the French translation of a U.K. site’s customer service page will retain British contact names, phone numbers, and business hours (Goswami, 2003).

Web Site Internationalization

Web site Internationalization (I18N) can be defined as the process of developing a Web site’s code base (functionality) so that its feature design and code do not make assumptions based on a single language. I18N issues include your Web site or Web-driven application’s ability to (a) support non-English characters, (b) sort based on different language rules, (c) be designed keeping text separate from code, and (d) handle different address, time, date, and numerical formats, among other considerations (Globalization Partners International, 2005).

Web Site Globalization

Web site globalization is the process of rendering a Web site in multiple languages. It goes beyond the translation of content into other languages. Ideally, the process must address localization, internationalization, country standards, symbols, currencies, geography, calendars, time zones, and a host of technically related entities like code page tables, data input methods, presentation media, and new formats for character representation (Sarkar, 2005).

Web Site Localization

Web site localization is the process of modifying an existing Web site to make it accessible, usable, and culturally suitable to a target audience. Web site localization is a multilayered process needing both programming expertise and linguistic and cultural knowledge. If either is missing, the chances are that a localization project will encounter problems (Payne, 2005).

The terms previously defined represent four different approaches to the development of a multilingual Web site in global e-commerce. As we can see from the definitions, they all share similarities as well as differences. Sarkar (2005) also thought that both internationalization and localization were subsets of globalization. Web site globalization is so much more than translating Web sites for various countries. The complexity is in the combination of local needs with corporate communication strategies. Local needs go beyond translation. They go as far as localizing company messaging and local business functionality in Web forms and applications, as well as locally targeted communication to multiple audiences through a Web site. As the process of converting written text to another language, Web site translation is regarded as one of the activities in localization, which includes translation and testing of Web content, translation and engineering of software, and project management. As with any translation and localization effort, it is not enough to simply convert text into the destination language; the success of a multilingual Web site depends on several factors, such as the content adaptation to the linguistic and cultural system of the target language, the adoption of a marketing strategy that achieves the right balance between global and local content, and the transformation of Web site components to meet the linguistic and cultural communication requirements (Esselink, 2000).

Main Solutions To The Challenges For Multilingual Web Sites

Based on the four important approaches to the development of multilingual Web sites in global e-commerce, the following section outlines some practical solutions to meet the challenges, focusing on language barriers and cultural preferences.

Web Site Glocalization As A Solution To Cultural Preferences

Among the four approaches previously defined, two have been widely adopted for the design of multilingual Web sites. One is Web site globalization, and the other is Web site localization. As the combination of globalization and localization, glocalization is a process of adopting specific elements from other cultures without losing the original identity, and blending the ideas, brands, and practices from different cultures in such a balanced way that one is not overwhelmed by the other. For instance, glocalization has led to the emergence of phenomena such as world music, gourmet cooking, and ethnic body adornment (Shen, Woolley, & Prior, 2006). According to Tixier (2005), “glocalization is the implementation of the constraints of globalization in accordance with the constraints of the local environment and requested by the final user” (p. 16). Here, glocalization is regarded as the third path, beside globalization and localization, to developing major multilingual Web sites for various sectors of industry in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world. While the Web sites’ structure could remain the same, the content of the Web sites could be adapted to the cultural, political, legal, behavioral, and technical aspects in the different markets or countries (Tixier, 2005). There are many examples of glocalization. For example, KFC has added to its menu such dishes as mushroom rice, chicken porridge, and seafood and vegetable soup to cater to local Chinese customers’ love of rice. McDonald’s Restaurants in France have replaced the familiar Ronald McDonald mascot with Asterix the Gaul, a popular French cartoon character. When applied to global e-commerce, Web site glocalization means thinking global and acting local. In a study of the Chinese Web sites of the top 100 global brands, Maynard and Tian (2004) found that a glocal strategy, as opposed to a standardized global strategy, was being practiced in cyberspace by many of the companies with top brands. These companies glocalized their Chinese Web pages by integrating local cultural characteristics into their brands’ strategies, thus presenting themselves as being socially accommodating to the local market. Ideally, the glocalization process must address globalization, localization, internationalization, country standards, symbols, currencies, geography, calendars, time zones, and a host of technically related entities like code page tables, data input methods, presentation media, and new formats for character representation. Success in a global market that is made up of many different localities is more likely if products are glocalized and customized for individual local communities that have different needs and different cultural preferences (Singh & Boughton, 2005).

Machine Translation As A Solution To The Challenge Of Language Barriers

Machine translation (MT) is the use of computer software to translate text or speech from one natural language into another. Like translation done by humans, MT is not simply substituting words in one language for another, but applying complex linguistic knowledge. Machine translation systems connected by the Internet may allow cross-language communication with anyone, from anywhere, and at any time. The Web-based translation makes it possible to instantly interpret regional dialects and idiomatic expressions in various languages. With the machine translation systems, products and services can be obtained or provided in a local language, thus helping international business and markets to grow and allowing local cultures and languages to thrive (Lehman-Wilzig, 2001). There are numerous companies that specialize in providing software and service for Web-based machine translation. The following are eight popular ones.

  • ATA Software (http://www.atasoft.com): On the market since 1997, ATA provides an online instant text and Web site translation service between English and Arabic.
  • Babel Fish (http://babelfish.altavista.com): Provided by AltaVista, Babel Fish enables the translation of short passages and Web sites between 31 language pairs.
  • FreeTranslation.com (http://www.freetranslation.com): Powered by SDL’s Enterprise Translation Server, Free Translation offers free translations of text or Web pages in 11 languages.
  • InterTran (http://www.tranexp.com/intertran/): A free Web translation service that can translate single words, phrases, sentences, and entire Web pages in 42 languages.
  • myWorldLingo (http://www.worldlingo.com/en/products _services/worldlingo_translator.html): A free online language translator, provided by World Lingo, helps users translate between 210 language pairs. It can also be used in e-mail translation.
  • SYSTRAN (http://www.systransoft.com/): Founded in 1968, SYSTRAN develops leading MT technologies, and provides free online translation in one of 18 languages.
  • TRADOS (http://www.trados.com): A suite of applications that enable users to master the many facets of translation work, and address the requirements of multiple front ends, terminology management, alignment of legacy translations, and project management. It supports more than 60 languages.
  • Translate Now! (http://www.foreignword.com/Tools/transnow.htm): A single-point access to 28 of the best systems for over 38 different languages.

Web Site Internationalization As A Solution To The Challenge Of Technical Differences

Web site internationalization refers to the process of designing an application so that it can enable easy localization for a target audience that varies in culture, region, or language without engineering changes. It provides technologies for handling bidirectional text, language identification, accessibility issues, vertical text, non-Latin typography, date and time formats, calendars, number formats, and names. It also separates local content from global content and specifies the language of content (Becker, 2002; Cunningham, 2005; Perrault & Gregory, 2000). As pointed out by Lingo Systems’ Guide to Translation and Localization, Web site internationalization takes localization issues into consideration before localization happens. It looks into issues such as writing style, page formatting, encoding for HTML, content database interfaces, trying to understand the implications that can affect the localization process. In this way, during the development stage, unnecessary complications can be avoided, and costs can be reduced during localization (Lingo System, 2006).

Lingo Systems’ Guide to Translation and Localization (2006) has listed the following aspects of internationalization for multilingual Web sites:

  • Colors and graphics to avoid offending potential customers
  • Dialog box wide enough to accommodate text expansion
  • Functionality that supports various date, time, and currency formats
  • Input and output functions to support different character sets, including double-byte characters for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK)
  • Adaptable user interface to allow reading from left to right for English users and reading from right to left for Arabic users

Unicode Adoption as a Solution to the Challenge of Technological Difficulties

One of the emerging technologies associated with the creation and rendering of non-Latin alphabets is Unicode, which has been recognized and widely adopted as an international standard. As the alternative to the ASCII coding scheme, Unicode allows more than 65,000 non-Latin characters and makes storing, displaying, and accessing non-Latin characters on the Web much easier. It enables a single software product or a single Web site to be targeted across multiple platforms, languages, and countries without reengineering (Ott, 1999; Yunker, 2003). In recent years, Unicode, as a new character set coding scheme, has been implemented to include both the Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese characters, thus reducing problems caused by compiling and translating Chinese characters coded in different character sets (Emerson, 2000). Caldwell (2002) summarized other major advantages of Unicode in the article “Simplifying Web Content with Unicode” as follows:

Unicode provides one unified index for all characters in all common languages; a common index for transcoding among standard encodings; and a common point of reference for comparing encoded characters. It provides a tool for fixing problems such as translations that use Microsoft Code Page 1252 special characters, integrating processes that cannot change encodings, converting documents that come with no encoding tags, and converting documents to another encoding in the same language. Unicode also frees creative energies which, because they are not needed to solve transcoding problems, can be used to improve multilingual content, content management, and intercultural communications. (p. 22)

Future Trends

The Internet has become a primary communication medium with over 1 billion users all over the world (Computer Industry Almanac, Inc., 2005; Internet World Stats, 2007a). It has brought down language barriers that previously prevented companies and individuals from marketing their products or services in global e-commerce. One of the characteristics of global e-commerce is its multilinguality, with the content on a large percentage of Web sites either non-English or a mixture of English and other languages. Therefore, the next big challenge for multilingual Web sites in global e-commerce is how to make the multilingual content retrievable by search engines, such as Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask. In other words, there exists a vast online market for multilingual Web content search. Therefore, along with the booming multilingual Web site design services, there are services for multilingual search engine optimization (SEO), which is also called international search engine optimization. It is common for Internet users to not click through pages and pages of search results, so the ranking of a Web site in a search is essential for directing more traffic toward the Web site. The higher a Web site ranks in the results of a search, the greater the chance that the Web site will be visited by a user. Multilingual SEO refers to the process of changing the content and code of a multilingual Web site in order to increase its rankings in the result pages of search engines and directories. The process may involve rewriting body copy, altering Title or Meta tags, removing Frames or Flash content, building links, focusing on content optimization and code optimization, and ensuring the Web site coding validates. There are many companies and Web sites providing multilingual SEO for Web site marketing in the top 10 most popular languages identified on the Web site Internet World Stats (2007b), such as English, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Korean, and Hebrew. For a company or an individual that already has a functional global e-commerce Web site, the new challenge is not only to effectively maintain the multilingual Web site to meet the needs of existing customers, but also to constantly update the multilingual Web site to attract and retain new customers. Multilingual SEO services will certainly help the company and the individual to meet such a new challenge, thus becoming more visible and more competitive in global e-commerce.

An immediate future research opportunity is to study the impact of glocalization on non-English e-commerce Web sites, such as the e-commerce Web sites in Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese, focusing on the correlation of global content and local content on the Web sites. As noted in various studies on language and culture and their impact on communication, language and culture together play a very important role in global e-commerce (Boyd, 2006; Chau, Cole, Massey, Montoya-Weiss & O’Keefe, 2002; Cunningham, 2005; He, 2001; Hillier, 2003; Payne, 2005; Tsikriktsis, 2002). Also, linguistic and cultural differences as well as political and economic differences exist between Mainland China and Taiwan. Actually, the differences in language and culture are so big that they have created communication obstacles between Mainland China and Taiwan not only in everyday life but also in professional practice. People in Taiwan are more comfortable to buy things over the Internet, while people in Mainland China are more reluctant to go online shopping, because Taiwan’s culture and lifestyle are much more influenced by Western culture and ideology. Such differences in language and culture between Mainland China and Taiwan could create differences in language translation and culture adaptation when English Web sites are glocalized in Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese with respect to local content. This project analyzes glocalized Web sites of the two best beverage brands, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, focusing on the problems of language translation and culture adaptation in local content. The quality of the two companies’ glocalized Web sites in Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese are compared and contrasted in terms of their similarities and differences in language structures and culture elements, thus providing helpful insights into the evaluation of the content and structures of glocalized Web sites for global e-commerce. Based on the cross-cultural and cross-lingual comparison of the glocalized e-commerce Web sites of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, this project will not only reveal interesting findings on two multinational companies’ glocalized Web sites in terms of language translation and culture adaptation, but also provide helpful insights into multilingual Web site evaluation for global e-commerce. Furthermore, this project will show that building a quality multilingual Web site is closely related to Web site translation in different languages as well as the proper glocalization of Web sites for their target audience and market, with respect to language and culture differences. In addition, this project will provide an in-depth discussion on some interesting aspects of Web site glocalization in global e-commerce, focusing on the main challenges and major dimensions.

Conclusion

This research-paper has provided an in-depth discussion on some interesting aspects of multilingual issues in global e-commerce Web sites, focusing on the main challenges and major solutions. Also, issues related to multilingual SEO are discussed as future trends. We have shown that developing and maintaining a multilingual Web site is indispensable for individuals and companies wishing to compete in global e-commerce. With the Internet population becoming more and more multilingual, there will be a greater demand for new information technologies and services to provide solutions to meet the challenges brought up by language barriers, cultural preferences, technological difficulties, technical differences, political factors, and legal constraints. Therefore, it is imperative that we have a better understanding of the issues related to multilingual Web sites so that we can remain one step ahead of the competition in global e-commerce.

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