Putting the 'World' in WWW Wide Web
Two software companies are introducing new translation products to help companies avoid being the ugly cyber-American
P> The Internet is supposed to link people all over the world, but so far most on-line communication is through the English language.
Two companies this month are introducing new products that will help translate home pages, allow authorship in dozens of languages and permit World Wide Web browsers to read in numerous tongues.
"The Internet user should not be bound geographically," said Norman Kreger, director of corporate communications for Accent Software International Ltd., one of the companies. Kreger estimates that the Internet is now 98 percent English. But as the Internet becomes more important for marketing, it will be vital to reach all possible customers.
Multilingual communication is also important to global companies that already have offices in many countries. A main reason is the comfort factor, said Michael Pellet, president of M2 LTD., Gaithersburg, Md., which this month introduced its multilingual home page services. "If you can put it in their native language it makes [people] feel more comfortable and gives them that warm and fuzzy feeling," Pellet said. Just assuming everyone in the world knows or wants to get all their information in English is a mistake that has hurt the United States in the past, he added.
M2 offers two home page services: one is a translation to any of 30 languages of a current home page that would then be accessed through a separate link; and the other is a "language-neutral" home page which would be designed with a specific country's traditions and language patterns in mind.
So far, French, German, Spanish and Japanese are the most requested languages, Pellet said. Prices start at $2,000 for a simple home page in three languages, he said.
Accent Software International Ltd. is based in Jerusalem, Israel, with a U.S. office in Newport Beach, Calif. This month, it will begin selling its Internet With an Accent software off the shelf for about $99.
While M2 creates and translates Web sites, Internet With an Accent allows customers to write home pages in 32 languages with any keyboard. "We don't expect people to have 32 keyboards lying around," said Kreger. The user clicks on the name of the language he wants to use. The screen then shows a keyboard with the correct characters. The user can write either by clicking on letters on the screen with a mouse, or by typing the corresponding key.
The Internet With an Accent software also comes with a multilingual browser and an e-mail reader/writer. The browser allows users to view Web pages in any of the 32 languages. Although Netscape Communications Corp., Mountain View, Calif., does have international versions of its browsers, they are for individual languages. The browser most Americans use would read Japanese, for example, as gibberish, because it can't recognize the characters. Similarly, the e-mail system lets users read and write in any of the 32 languages.
So far, said Kreger, the company is finding that its product appeals to large organizations that have a worldwide presence. A company such as AT&T could send a message about its restructuring plans in the native language of all its international employees. There are also many individuals who would like to access information, like newspaper articles in Paris, on the Internet.
"People who use the Internet in English will start browsing in other languages," Kreger said.