Could businesses be missing out on an opportunity to reach more people by not incorporating Swahili in their communication? Twitter has recently recognised the language and started providing translation for tweets done in Swahili, in addition to the 34 other languages it recognises.
On the hand, a majority of communication, especially for businesses, is still in English despite Swahili being spoken by about 100,000 people in Africa. The language is spoken in East and Central Africa in countries including Tanzania, Uganda, some parts of Mozambique, the Comoros, DRC, Rwanda and Burundi.
Twitter obliged to recognise Swahili (the only language in Africa to get the honour)after a passionate campaign by Twitter users under the hashtag #SwahiliIsNotIndonesian and #TwitterRecognizeSwahili. Before this, Twitter mistook Swahili words for Indonesian, a result of which were translations that were incomprehensible.
With the new translation, many more people across the world can now understand and follow issues being discussed by Swahili speaking countries. I went ahead and typed in a few Swahili phrases and twitter translated it well. So what can businesses learn from Twitter’s latest move and use it to improve their presence and reach?
Well, thanks to technology the world has gone digital, websites have become central to customer communication the world over, with Africa in the thick of it. However, 55 percent of website content in the world is in English despite the language being native only a fifth of the world’s population.
According to data from an e-commerce study by Common Sense Advisory, 72 percent of consumers spend most of their time on websites in their native language, while 72 percent said that they favoured buying a product with information in their own language. Additionally, the study found that more than half of the consumers found the ability to obtain information in their own language more important than price, yet a majority of websites in Kenya and East Africa as a whole have no Swahili versions nor do they offer translation features.
This happens despite the fact that there are website technologies today that can offer translations in over 60 languages at the click of a button.
Twitter uses one such tool; Bing Translator to translate 34 different languages in their platform. This technology is free and was developed by software company Microsoft. Many don’t know it, but you can easily integrate the same technology into your company website or alternatively, use Google translate from Google which has the same functionalities.