Andrew Lucas Beating the Language Barrier in Research
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By Andrew Lucas


Andrew Lucas looks at why, despite the proliferation of translation tools, language remains a barrier to using local language content and why local language sources are hard to come by.


FreePint Topic Series: News, and BeyondWe all know that the internet has made the world smaller by increasing the availability of information, but despite the proliferation of translation tools, language remains a barrier to using much of this data as it still requires an ability to both search for and understand content.

There are an estimated 7,000 languages in the world and even though 90% of them are spoken by less than 100,000 people, it is still something of a challenge for both information users and vendors to keep up with the volume of information available from even the mainstream languages.

Tap into Information from Across the World

The dominance of English in the business world and on the web can blind us to the vast amount of relevant information available in other languages. As a first language, English is only the third most widely spoken language in the world behind Chinese and Spanish.

The globalisation of world trade and the growth of non-Western countries such China, has meant that it has become increasingly important to be able to access information from all parts of the world.

Competitiveness and Security Benefit from Local Source Knowledge

The increased requirements for due diligence in areas such as Anti-Money Laundering and counter party risk is helping to drive the demand for access to content that may not be available in English or other European languages. Meanwhile instability in the Middle East and other parts of the world, such as in the former Russian states, has led to a significant increase in the demand from security organisations to access local language content.

A number of surveys have shown that the inability of business professionals to read and understand other languages has a negative impact on the competitiveness in the English speaking world.

The 2013 FreePint News Needs & Preferences Survey highlighted comment from participants in the survey regarding the two market-leading services, Dow Jones Factiva and Reed Elsevier's Nexis, which included "use more local languages" and "more foreign language content."

The major information vendors provide varying levels of multilingual content, a subject explored in part by Perrin Kerravala's FreePint blog, "Harness Multilingual Resources for Research".

Find Out More

In meeting the demand for content in multiple languages, the information vendors face both commercial and technical challenges.

My FreePint Subscription Article "Taming Foreign Language Sources" explores these challenges in more detail as well as looking at the coverage of non-English language sources by the major vendors and considering some of the alternatives provided by websites which provide translated news.  

This Blog Item is part of the FreePint Topic Series: News, and Beyond.

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