The WorldLingo Quarterly Email Survey - November 2000

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 Acceptable Response Times


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. 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 the 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 it had to answer the actual question and be in the same language as the question was asked.

The companies surveyed were the top 100 USA companies from the Fortune 500, the top 50 Japanese, top 20 UK, top 20 French, Top 20 German, and the top 10 Australian.


3. The Results

91% of the world's largest companies cannot respond to foreign language email inquiries.

Figure 3.0

 

While many didn't respond at all there were some very surprising trends amongst those that responded incorrectly:

  • 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. What is the use of sending an answer in German to someone who only speaks Japanese.

Read WorldLingo Press Releases about the survey results

Multinational does not mean multilingual
US Corporates can not communicate to the world
AstraZeneca receive Multilingual Email Award
Cable and Wireless Optus Limited receives Multilingual Email Award


3.1 Some Interesting Responses to the Emails (All written in English)

Walt Disney

Thank you for your letter. We're sorry, but we are only able to respond to letters in English at this time. Come visit us at Disney.go.com again soon!

TIAA-CREF

I am in receipt of your e-mail of September 12, 2000. To forward this to an outside service for interpretation would take several days, and not allow us to respond to you in the quickest manner. Can you re-submit your inquiry in English?

Chevron

Thank you for taking the time to write to Chevron in Italian. At this time we can only reply to requests written in English.

Microsoft

Hello and thank you for writing to microsoft.com. At this time, we are only able to respond to questions written in English.


3.2 Country by Country Comparison

The table below shows the percentage of responses from companies in each country. The UK led the way followed by USA and Australia. Notable were the 0% response from France and Japan.

Table 3.2.0

Country Response (%)

UK

16%

USA

13%

Australia

12%

Germany

5%

France

0%

Japan

0%

Average %

9%

Figure 3.2.0

Read a more in-depth look at the USA responses


3.3 Language by Language Comparison

The table below shows the responses broken down by language. 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.

The 0% response for Japanese may indicate that most companies do not realize they are receiving email in Japanese because the email clients they use to read the email do not handle Japanese characters by default.

Table 3.3.0

Number sent per language Response (%)

Spanish

21%

German

8%

Portuguese

7%

Italian

7%

French

4%

Japanese

0%

Figure 3.3.0


3.4 Industry by Industry Comparison

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

Given all the hype about infotainment and the global nature of the music industry, the Entertainment industry produced a surprisingly low result.

Table 3.4.0

Number sent by Industry Response (%)

Medical

50%

Information Technology

19%

Retail & Wholesale

10%

Services

10%

Financial Services

7%

Manufacturing

4%

Petroleum

0%

Entertainment

0%

Figure 3.4.0


3.5 Acceptable Response Times

Of the 10% that responded only a handful were within the 24-hour turnaround period most customers consider acceptable. Below are the fastest responses:

Table 3.5.0

Company Response Time Language Industry Country

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter (MWD)

3 hours and 28 minutes

Spanish

Financial Services

USA

AstraZeneca (AZN)

3 hours and 50 minutes

French

Manufacturing

UK

State Farm Insurance Cos

13 hours and 37 minutes

Spanish

Financial Services

USA

Bell South

15 hours and 20 minutes

Portuguese

Information Technology

USA

Home Depot

17 hours and 8 minutes

Portuguese

Retail and Wholesale

USA

Bell Atlantic

17 hours and 35 minutes

German

Information Technology

USA

Lucent Technologies

22 hours, and 1 min

Spanish

Information Technology

USA

Cable and Wireless (CWO) Optus Limited

25 hours and 6 minutes

Spanish

Information Technology

Australia

Unilever (UN)

28 hours and 46 minutes

Spanish

Retail and Wholesale

UK

Figure 3.5.0

WorldLingo gives Multilingual email awards to:

 

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