LONDON--Less than 5 percent of the world's top Internet sites are able to respond to email messages in languages other than English, according to a new study by IDC and the online translation company Worldlingo.
Only 4.45 percent of the top 50 Web sites ranked by Media Metrix could respond accurately to a non-English email when they were contacted in September 2001.
Brick-and-mortar companies fared slightly better in a similar study conducted in August, with 11.06 percent of firms being able to answer non-English email.
The Internet companies were tested for their ability to interpret German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese email.
Only 14.28 percent of messages received in French, and 14.28 percent of those in Latin American Spanish were replied to correctly. The other languages did not receive any accurate responses.
According to Worldlingo, many firms failed to respond to the email at all, or asked for them to be resent in English.
"With over 50 percent of Web users preferring to speak a language other than English, Internet sites are going to need to use multinational communication if they are going to maximize their consumer base," said Phil Scanlan, chief executive officer of Worldlingo.
According to the company, 55 percent of Internet users have a native language other than English--but 86 percent of Web pages on the Net are in English, according to recent research by the NEC Research Institute.
Online English speakers are now a minority group just like the rest--of the 476 million Internet users across the globe, 33.33 percent primarily speak a European language, and 25.6 percent primarily speak an Asian language.