Blogs in translation?

How much news and information do we miss out on because in the UK, and to an extent the USA, we primarily blog in English? There are 6 billion people on the planet, yet we are only looking at a tiny proportion of the views of and strategies for social media, because we are only studying English written blogs.

I fell upon a report at the weekend that said:

China now has more than 50 million bloggers as increasing numbers of people seek an outlet for their views, state press reported.

The group said there were 100 million blogs, or personal online journals, in China, meaning many people are keeping more than one.

“More and more Chinese want to express their own views about local and international events through the Internet,” Gao Lulin, the group’s deputy head, was quoted as saying.

50 million bloggers. Surely there will be more than the one who will be thinking along the the same lines as Neville Hobson, Chris Brogan et al? Not only are there Chinese bloggers, the Chinese government are letting them express their views (although to what extent we probably can’t measure). This is huge. It is the equivalent of a medieval trade route being developed for the first time, but instead of caravans full of spices or minerals, we have blogs full of ideas about conversations and communications.

Between 4-5% of India is online. This is a tiny percentage of the country’s population, but, this is from a population of 1.2 Billion, which equates to, if my maths is correct, about 60 million people online. That’s more than here in the UK. Again, there must be people blogging about social media that we haven’t started speaking with in the West.

So I did some hunting around and found three Social Media experts from India who (helpfully!) blog in English, and I urge you to take a few minutes to go and read their material:

Dina Mehta
Sampad Swain

There is an interesting post by Guarav Mishra on his blog Guaravonomics that looked at the differences between Indian and Chinese social media.

Guarav says (and I apologise for the huge blockquote):

China and India are similar in several ways. In both countries, Internet penetration is low and Internet access is often shared. In both countries, mobile penetration is much deeper than Internet penetration and mobile phones are the only personal communications device for most people. Neither country has led the world in Internet or mobile innovation, but both countries have been quick to adopt international innovations into local clones. Internet users in both India and China have large social circles both online and offline and are heavy users of social media, possibly because of a strong early adopter bias. Both countries have vibrant blogging communities which have played a leading role in covering natural disasters, like the 2004 South East Asia Tsunami, the 2008 China earthquake and the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. Both the Chinese and the Indian Internet communities have flirted with online activism but struggled to use social media for social change in any meaningful way.

However, China and India also have several importance differences related to Internet and mobile use. China has already reached the critical mass of Internet users to become an force to reckon with internationally, while India is still a marginal (but growing) presence on the Internet. China has one of the most repressive regimes and the most sophisticated Internet censorship infrastructure in the entire world whereas India has a vibrant democracy and the Indian Internet is mostly uncensored. Most of the content on the Chinese Internet is in Mandarin whereas the Internet in Indian is dominated by English language content. Helped by the language advantage and the Chinese government’s protectionist policies, Chinese Internet and web 2.0 companies have dominated their international counterparts, whereas most Indian Internet and web 2.0 companies suffer from a severe case of identity crisis.

I’d be interested to know what you think, and I’m sure Guarav would be too!


7 thoughts on “Blogs in translation?

  1. Hiya,

    This is a very interesting post. It’s on a topic that we’ve been talking about for years – trying to get across that 70 percent of the world’s online population doesn’t speak English.

    Guarav’s point that most of the Indian internet is dominated by the English language is interesting, but what’s also interesting is the form this English tends to take online. I just finished researching and writing an article for India Retailing about how the language Indians use on the internet is often a mix of English and one of the 23 Indian languages. It’s very cultural.

    You can see the article here.

    That people tend to prefer using the Internet in their own language (ex. Chinese in Mandarin) is not really surprising. And the new ICANN regulations are going to make this easier, by allowing top-level domains (ex. to be in non-latin scripts like Arabic or Cyrillic. This is going to open up a whole new world of multilingual internet use.

    Good blog – keep posts like this coming!

  2. We had the great privilege of launching the world’s first bionic hand in 2007. This story had such tremendous impact that it received coverage on every inhabited continent in countless languages, regardless of the fact that our launch was exclusively in English. Our materials, consultants conducting the outreach and patients were all exclusively English speaking, still this did not prevent what was a great story from achieving substantial coverage in other languages.

    I would proffer that the news value of a particular story determines its ability to transcend language, cultural and geographical borders. Should one hope to receive coverage in a specific language or geography, it is my feeling that one must at an absolute minimum, have materials and a proficient communicator in the native language. Otherwise, it’s impossible to keep a finger on the pulse of the market in these territories not one’s own and thus have significant difficulty in entering the conversation, especially when talking about social media platforms.

    An interesting topic to be sure!

  3. Thanks for the comment Linda :) That’s amazing! I totally agree with you – if a story is of the nature you’ve kindly shared, then it will fly! It takes a tremendous amount of effort on the part of the people who are translating the article or press release into their own language and we could certainly be making this process alot easier.

    There is a tendency for clients to not think about the essentially free coverage they might get in other countries if they were to spend a little time providing materials to make translation easier, if not different language versions of the same press release, for example. Although their goal may be to just hit their own country, a little bit of positive exposure in other countries can never be a bad thing.

  4. Hi Kaila, thank you for your comment – glad you like the blog, please keep coming back! :)

    It sounds terrible, but it is really something that only dawned on me the other day – that there is so much information and opinion that most of us barely scratch the surface of, and i think we’re mising out on a heck of a lot.

    That’s a very interesting piece – what do you think is the reason for the slow uptake in blogging?

    IIRC, India has one of the highest densities of mobile phone ownership in the world – do you think that there will be a growth in mobile networking more so than blogging?

  5. hi….thanks for adding my name and my blog on your post. just a small request.. the spelling of my name is bhanuprakash (not “prakesh”). Well i am not an expert but working hard to understand Social Media much better. keep in touch.. thanks…

  6. Ah, please accept my apologies!

    I’ve amended :)

    Thank you for your articles, they’re very insightful!

  7. no problem. at all..It was just about my name. I should thank you for considering my blog to be insightful. Yesterday i have posted a new article, it might give you another perspective towards Social media.

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