What factors need to be considered before translating a website into Catalan?
Beginning this week we are going to present a series of articles to answer the question: why should I translate my website into...?, exploring the advantages of having a multilingual website.
In this first instalment, we wanted to answer a question we are often asked: Is it worth translating your website into Catalan? If so, which businesses or sectors is it most appropriate for?
Where is Catalan spoken?
Like French, Spanish and Italian, Catalan is a language descended from Latin and is spoken in several European countries, mainly in Spain, in the Catalonia, Valencia, Balearic Islands and Aragon regions. It is also spoken in the Principality of Andorra, where it is the official language, in some parts of southern France and in the Sardinian city of Alghero in Italy.
According to the InformeCAT 2019 Report, the major annual statistical report for the language, Catalan has a total of more than 10 million speakers, approximately half of whom speak it as a native language (more than 4 million people). This means that within the ranking of the most widely spoken languages, Catalan is more or less in the same position as Swedish or Bulgarian.
In order to understand the significance of Catalan more clearly, it is worth noting that there are more than 100 newspapers and magazines published in Catalan in Spain alone.
Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, also enjoys a full seven TV channels, the most watched being TV3, whose programming is entirely in Catalan. The same goes for radio, where the most listened in the region are RAC1 and Catalunya Radio.
Many of the top social networks (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype, Badoo) are also available in this language.
Catalan speakers are also quite active internet users. Surprisingly enough, Catalan is among the 20 languages with the highest number of Wikipedia articles, meaning speakers are actively involved in its development, as again indicated by the CAT Report.
Another interesting fact, which shows the vitality of Catalan's online community, is provided by the LanguageToolproject, which we have already discussed in other articles. This grammar checker is based on rules written by the user community. Catalan has more than 3000 rules, more than English, German and Spanish, and second only to Dutch, as can be seen on the project page.
Additionally, as shown by the data from the annual AIMC (Association for Media Research) study, referring to the period 2018/2019, Catalonia is the third autonomous community, behind Madrid and the Basque Country, with the highest rate of Internet usage, with 80.3%, surpassing the Spanish average of 77.9%.
The advantages of having a Catalan website
Although the opportunity to have content in Catalan is not a widely debated topic on the Internet, it is interesting to analyse the issue from a purely commercialpoint of view.
There are various advantages that come with making a website available in Catalan, especially for companies that base their headquarters or activities in Catalonia.
As detailed in the blog of Fintech business investor François Derbaix, who conducted a study on the subject, only 1 out of 4 Catalan users surf the Internet in this language. The rest use the internet in Spanish. Thus, the benefit provided by the Catalan part of users is quite small. However, it should also be noted that this is often due to the fact that although a Catalan language page may be available, the Spanish version often has more extensive information and more options to choose from.
In this respect we can say that the Internet kills minority languages. If the user understands several languages, they are likely to choose the language that provides the most information.
For example, if I'm looking for a flat by the beach and I understand both Catalan and Spanish, but I see that more options are available in Spanish, I'm going to opt for this language, even though my mother tongue is Catalan.
Translating a website from beginning to end is a significant investment, since in most cases it is not just a question of translating the menu items or the portal "buttons", but also of completing all the service and product descriptions in an additional language, managing translations between Catalan and Spanish, and even moderating a forum or maintaining a blog in Catalan.
So, according to the analysis, we could conclude that it is not worth translating our website into Catalan, right? Well, there are a few more figures that might just tip the balance in favour of Catalan.
The difference between the end user and collaborators
Although the profitability of having a website in Catalan is not very high if we focus on our final (user) audience, the balance tips when we talk about websites aimed at partners or collaborators. This aspect is especially important in the tourism and hospitality sector. Many tourism portals work with partners who offer their facilities and services. In this sense, as far as Catalonia is concerned, it is an important tourist destination within Spain, and Catalan is the main language, especially in the interior and northern regions.
As according to the blog of Toprural, the majority of rural house owners who came into contact with this portal spoke only and exclusively in Catalan. In order to speed up communication and the use of the platform, Toprural invested in translating its website into this language. It is therefore important that portals of this type offer their services in the language most spoken by their main users, even if these are not the site's end users.
Booking.com also noticed this pattern. Like Toprural, Booking.com has also translated its pages into Catalan to make it easier for partners to access and navigate.
The result? Both portals doubled their market share in Catalonia. In the case of Toprural, it exceeded their market share in the rest of Spain. The Catalan translation helped these companies to climb to top positions within the region, becoming leaders in the sector.
We may conclude that for a B2C (business to consumer) website, the Catalan translation will not result in a significant increase in visits. However, companies that target a business audience that interacts directly with the site, as in the case of tourist accommodation portals, will benefit greatly when they can offer their customers an interface in the Catalan language.
Obviously, each company must analyse its market and potential traffic in order to make this decision, and decide whether investing in translation pays off for them, especially if we take into account the expense for a quality translation is often considerable, as we have seen in other articles.