A pan-EU Eurobarometer survey showed that 44% of Internet users feel they are missing interesting information because web pages are not in a language they understand. The survey, released in May 2011, shows that 90% of Internet surfers in the EU prefer to access websites in their own language, while 55% at least occasionally use a language other than their own when online.
Most people are faced with a situation of using another language when they are looking for information (81%), but 62% use it also in social relationships, typically when communicating online with friends, or for professional reasons (52%).
The survey confirms that English is the most commonly used language when it comes to reading and watching content on the Internet in a different language than one’s own: almost half of Internet users in the EU (48%) would use English at least “occasionally”. On average one out of two Internet users in twenty three Member States uses a language other than their own to read online. However this figure hides great variations as between 90 and 93% of Greeks, Slovenes, Luxembourgers, Maltese and Cypriots indicated they would use other languages when online, but only 9% of UK citizens, 11% of Irish, 23% of Czechs and 25% of Italians said they would do so.
Buying online is an area where people prefer to use their own language. Only 18% of EU internet users buy online in another language frequently or all the time, and 42% said they never buy online in a language other than their own.
In order to truly make Europe digital and fulfil the objectives of the Digital Agenda for Europe online translation tools must be developed, so that a lack of language skills will not hinder EU internet users from finding information and products online. Currently the European Commission manages 30 different research projects working at the interface of language and digital content, supported by €67 million of EU funding and the new projects submitted this year will get an additional €50 million.