Multinational Multilingualism on the Internet: The Use of Japanese on Corporate Web Sites

By Tiessen, James H | Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, June 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Multinational Multilingualism on the Internet: The Use of Japanese on Corporate Web Sites

Tiessen, James H, Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences


This study investigates factors associated with the use of Japanese on the Web sites of 362 non-Japanese companies listed on the Fortune Global 500. The results showed that business to consumer (B2C) firms were more likely to offer Japanese than those in business to business (B2B). Companies in the financial services sector did not tend to have Japanese on their sites. B2C service firms (e.g., retailers) were less likely to adapt to Japan's market than the others. Only 35% of the companies with subsidiaries or offices in Japan offered Japanese. This group, not surprisingly, was more likely to provide information in its host country's language. The study 's findings indicate that international market factors and the economics of language act in tandem to affect the Internet multilingualism strategies of multinationals.


Cette étude se penche sur les facteurs associés à l'utilisation du japonais sur les sites Web de 362 sociétés non japonaises figurant sur la liste du Fortune Global 500. Les résultats ont révélé que les sociétés orientées vers le grand public (business to consumer ou « B2C ») sont plus nombreuses que les sociétés de services interentreprises (business to business ou « B2B ») à proposer des pages en japonais. Les sociétés du secteur des services financiers n'ont pas en général de pages en japonais sur leur site. Ce sont les sociétés de services orientées vers le grand public, comme les détaillants, qui sont le moins susceptibles de s'adapter au marché japonais. Seulement 35 % des sociétés comportant des filiales ou des bureaux au Japon proposent des pages en japonais. Comme il fallait s'y attendre, ce groupe est plus enclin à fournir de l'information dans la langue de son pays d'accueil. Les observations de l'étude indiquent que les facteurs du marché international et les aspects économiques de la langue agissent en parallèle sur les stratégies de plurilinguisme sur Internet adoptées par les multinationales.

Multinational Internet sites highlight the issue of language use in international business because, intentionally or not, all Web sites have potential global reach. The language choices a firm makes as it uses the Web to distribute corporate and product information, communicate with stakeholders, and/or enable transactions reflect its approach to international strategy. These decisions are important as multinationals expand their international activities in concert with the global adoption of the Internet.

The World Wide Web, which began as a mostly Anglo medium, has become multilingual. In 1996 it was estimated that 80% of the world's 50 million online population were native English speakers (Global Reach, 2003). Since then Web use has spread widely. In 2000, the numbers of Anglo and non-Anglo Internet users were about equal and by 2003 only 36% of the world's 680 million people online spoke English as a first language. The importance of languages beyond English is underlined by the fact that non-English-speaking countries account for two-thirds of the world's economic output.

People now conduct Web searches in texts such as Chinese, Arabic, and Japanese, giving rise to parallel Web universes. Machine translation, recently offered on browsers, may one day reduce the significance of Web language decisions. However, to date this technology only offers the gist of a message, not a reliable presentation of a firm and its offerings (Economist, 2002).

This study sheds light on Web multilingualism by identifying factors associated with the decision of the largest non-Japanese firms to use Japanese on their Web sites. Japanese language was chosen as the focus for several reasons. First, its speakers are significant both with respect to their share of the world's online population (9.5%) and GDP (12%) (Global Reach, 2003). Japanese is therefore the third most-used online language (behind English and Chinese, 12%) and the world's second largest economy.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Multinational Multilingualism on the Internet: The Use of Japanese on Corporate Web Sites


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?