Let’s be honest - while surfing the web we are all more candid. In front of the screen - being one to one with it - we are stripped from the conventions of society. We may write letters and converse publicly in a language(s) that is more prestigious. But once left alone with a search engine only one thing matters - convenience. One to one with Google we use the language with which we are more at ease just because nobody will judge us. This phenomenon is well known in the scientific world. Everybody wants to look good in the eyes of others. When asked directly which language they use in daily life, people tend to give an answer which seems to them to be more advantageous. And in most cases it does not correspond to reality. Besides, often they themselves do not know the answer. For web design: convenience not conventions Consider an example. Researchers asked members of a Portuguese family in Luxembourg which language they speak in their daily life. All the members were confident that they use Portuguese and nothing other than Portuguese. Following this, the researchers proposed making recordings of the family’s conversations in their home. The the audio files demonstrated - to the big surprise of the family - that all family members spoke not only Portuguese but a lot of French too. Language is an indicator of belonging to a certain group. It is an excellent means to show that one sticks to his or her heritage and roots, is a part of high society or pursues bohemian lifestyle. And we use this means as often as we can. That is why the only possible way to find out which language or languages a person or group of persons really finds most convenient, is to see what happens in reality. Language and target audience All these factors make websites as a communication channel in a multilingual country, like Luxembourg, pretty tricky. When a company or organization decide to make a new web design or change an existing one, many questions may arise: should we use only one language, and if so which language should we choose; or should we translate into all the languages spoken in the region, but in this case is it worth the time and resources? In trying to decide one needs to consider some points:
- Language matters. Language is not a secondary issue when building a website. How and when your website will be found and used depends on the language choices you make.
- To search and navigate the web your target audience use a language which is more convenient for them. If you do not have content in this language you could lose prospective future clients.
- There is no better way to find out which language(s) your target audience really use than to get real life data.