The WorldLingo Quarterly Email Survey - April 2001

Download the survey in PDF format

Abstract

The following survey is conducted quarterly to measure the response of business to email requests. Particular focus is placed on their response to non-English email.

Contents

1. Introduction

2. Methodology

3. Results

3.1 Some Interesting Responses from Major Companies

3.2 Country by Country Comparison

3.3 Language by Language Comparison

3.4 Industry by Industry Comparison

3.5 Multilingual Email Excellence Awards


1. Introduction

Less than 50% of Internet users today speak English (Source: Global Reach), yet 86% of web pages on the internet are in English (Source: Inktomi and the NEC Research Institute). This is a reflection of the Internet's history and the fact that until recently it was largely an English phenomenon.

"Internet Time" is now established folklore. In two words it sums up how fast the Internet has changed and how fast businesses have to evolve if they wish to compete on the Internet.

But is "Internet Time" fast enough for the majority of Internet users who do not speak English? Like a rush, the Internet has caught on throughout Europe and Asia, in countries where English is not widely spoken. But business on the Internet has failed to respond, many of these non-English speaking Internet users are feeling neglected.

And this neglect is coming at an enormous cost to business with IDC reporting that people are 4 times more likely to make a purchase on the Internet if you communicate with them in their native language.

For this reason, WorldLingo decided to benchmark the capability of the world's largest companies to communicate with the majority of Internet users who cannot speak English. The first survey, which was released late last year, showed that the world's top companies need to improve their language skills. The results from this survey indicate that this is still the case.

More than just a static benchmark, WorldLingo intends to measure the progress of the ability to communicate with this non-English speaking majority quarterly. To see how fast "Internet Time" really is.


2. The Methodology *note

WorldLingo anonymously surveyed corporations from several different countries from around the world on their response to foreign language email. Each company was sent an email in one of the following languages:

  • Japanese
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Italian
  • German
  • Portuguese

The question sent to the companies was worded in a manner that ensured a returned email would have to be sent for the question to be answered properly. The email requests were split evenly across each foreign language.

For a response to be counted (or what we refer to as 'correct') it had to answer the actual question and be in the same language as the question was asked.

The US companies surveyed were taken from the Fortune 500. All other countries surveyed were selected from the Forbes International 800.


3. The Results

91.10% of the world's largest companies respond incorrectly to foreign language email inquiries.

Figure 3.0

The first survey, which was released last November found that only 9.34% of the world's largest corporations responded correctly to the sender's request, and in the same language as the original email. With Global Reach statistics indicating a continual trend away from English speaking dominance on the Web, it could be expected that the second survey results would show an improvement in the response rate from the world's corporates. This was not the case, with the response rate slipping to 8.9%.

While many didn't respond at all, there were some very surprising trends amongst those that failed to respond to the question in the sender's native language.

  • Many did not realize they were receiving a foreign language email, they replied in English saying the email was corrupted.
  • Several provided an answer in the appropriate language, but the answer was to a totally different question.
  • Several answered the question, but in a different language to that asked. (For example, a German response to a Japanese email message.)
  • 68.82% of companies did not respond at all.

Read WorldLingo Press Releases about the survey results

World Companies Need a Language Lesson

Kmart receives Worldlingo Multilingual Email Award

ENI receives Worldlingo Multilingual Email Award

Bouygues Group receives Worldlingo Multilingual Email Award

Preussag Group receives Worldlingo Multilingual Email Award



3.1 Some Interesting Responses to the Email Messages

State Farm Insurance Cos

The reply from State Farm Insurance Cos was ambiguos. They replied to an email written in German in the correct language. However, the message informed the sender that they do not reply to email messages written in German, and could "I" resend the message in English. It is strange that they replied in German to tell the sender that they did not respond to messages written in German.

Gehe

"I don't understand spanish (sic) but I know italian (sic) so it was not very difficult to understand your intention."


3.2 Country by Country Comparison

The table below shows the percentage of responses from companies in each country. Germany and France led the way, which is notable because of their poor response rate to the first survey. The fact that only 6% of US companies (a drop of 53.84% from Survey 1) responded correctly is also a glaring statistic.

Table 3.2.0

Country Response (%) Survey 2 Response (%) Survey 1

Germany

16%

5%

France

16%

0%

UK

8%

16%

USA

6%

13%

Japan

2.5%

0%

Italy

27.77%

NA

Australia

0%

12%

Average %

8.9%

9.34%

Figure 3.2.0



3.3 Language by Language Comparison

The table below shows the responses broken down by language. As with the first survey, Spanish by a wide margin is the foreign language companies are most likely to respond to. This is probably because of the large number of Spanish speakers in the USA and the growing importance of the South American market.

Once again, there was no response for email messages written in Japanese. This may indicate that most companies do not realize they are receiving email in Japanese because the email clients they use to read the message do not handle Japanese characters by default. Whatever the reason, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to rectify their poor response to Japanese email because over 20 percent of Japanese homes are online. (Access Media International).

Table 3.3.0

Number sent per language Response (%) Survey 2 Response (%) Survey 1

Spanish

18.42%

21%

French

11.11%

4.0%

German

8.82%

8%

Spanish (Latin American)

8.10%

8.10%

Portuguese

8.10%%

7%

Italian

6.06%

7%

Japanese

0%

0%

Figure 3.3.0


3.4 Industry by Industry Comparison

The table below shows the responses broken down by industry. The relatively high response from the Appliance industry may be misrepresentative due to the small number of Appliance companies included in the survey.

Table 3.4.0

Industry Response (%)

Appliances

33.33'%

Computers (Hardware and Software)

20.00%

Chemicals

14.28%

Utilities (Gas and Electric)

14.28%

Natural Resources

7.00%

Figure 3.4.0


3.5 Mulitlingual Email Excellence Award

WorldLingo gives a Multilingual Email Excellence Award (MEEA) to the company with the fastest response time from each country.

Of the 8.9% that responded, only a handful were within the 24-hour turnaround period that most customers consider acceptable. Italian company ENI had the fastest response time - 4 hours and 20 minutes. Interestingly, the winners of WorldLingo's inaugural MEEA, Astra Zeneca (UK) and Cable and Wireless Optus Limited (AUS) failed to respond to the second survey email. Below are the fastest responses:


Table 3.5.0

Company Response Time Language Industry Country

ENI

4 hours and 20 minutes

Portuguese

Energy Sources

Italy

Preussag Group

4 hours and 23 minutes

French

Multi-Industry

Germany

Bouygues Group

7 hours and 19 minutes

Spanish

Construction

France

Kmart

11 hours and 51 minutes

Portuguese

General Merchandisers

USA

Figure 3.5.0

 

*Methodology Note: For more detailed information regarding the validity and reliability of the methodology, sampling size and sampling time frame, please contact WorldLingo

WorldLingo's third survey will be released in June 2001.

 

Mulitlingual Email Excellence Award Winners

Kmart receives Worldlingo Multilingual Email Award

ENI receives Worldlingo Multilingual Email Award

Bouygues Group receives Worldlingo Multilingual Email Award

Preussag Group receives Worldlingo Multilingual Email Award