Monique van Dusseldorp on Tue, 7 Apr 1998 18:49:44 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> English vs local language

[Originally submitted to online-e.-T] 

The issue of addressing people in English is an interesting one.

As said, the top countries in terms of Internet use are those where a
lot of people have a good knowledge of English, either as their first or
second language. I come from the Netherlands, and a strong emphasis on
learning languages in education, combined with an internationally
oriented trade sector, and a tradition of showing television programmes
in their original form with subtitling (instead of dubbing, as is the
habit in Germany, France and many other markets), makes for a population
with a pretty advanced proficiency in the language.

So most of the present on-line population is quite happy using English
language resources on the web. The fact that this is so might however
give the English/American content or service producer a false sense of
opportunity. As long as there is a void, and local offerings (and to
some degree, localised offerings) still need to catch up, there is of
course a decent chance to get Dutch visitors/customers.

However, as soon as a local counterpart can offer a similar service, I
predict these services will be preferred. Compare it to the television
market: me and my countrymen are used to an avalanche of English
language material on television. We enjoy it, and with or without the
use of subtitles, most people can understand it as well. We also,
through our widespread cable system, receive channels like the BBC, CNN,
as well as Belgian and German channels. The Belgian offer broadcasts in
Flemish, which is Dutch with a difference. American produced television
shows are popular and widely known.

Everyweek I receive the weekly ratings of the ten programmes that scored
most viewers, and the ten programmes that the audience rated best. Week
after week, not a single non-Dutch produced programme makes it to the
top ten for audience share (unless you count international soccer games
as co-productions of course), and as for ratings, the whole last season
only the television show ER consistently made it into the top 10, along
with the occasional Hollywood movie.

My guess is that a lot of the US content will go the way of music
channel MTV: for a while very popular in the Netherlands, they have now
been completely pushed aside by Dutch music channel TMF. In Germany the
same has happened by music channel Viva. (It must be added, in both
cases, that MTV's strategy in many cases resulted in their removal from
the cable systems).

With the low barriers to entry, Dutch content and service producers
still have a chance to gain market dominance even though their entry
into that market might seem quite late. No fears for US domination in
that respect..

Monique van Dusseldorp
Kruidenhof 107, 1112 NX Diemen, Netherlands
tel +31 655 364 699, fax +31 20 570 7273

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