?From the great beyond into the present? ? an interview with Jo Lendle

Hanser publisher Jo Lendle talks about gentle adjustments of languages and marketing strategies.... more more

GoetheInstitute

03/07/2006

Our user survey

Below we summarise the results of our recent survey on who our readers are and what they think of our site

Who reads signandsight.com?

Our online user survey, carried out by the Universal McCann agency in Frankfurt, shows that signandsight.com is used regularly by a large number of culturally-interested readers around the world.

Most readers live in Europe and North America:


Question: "Where do you live?"







Our readers have a higher-than-average level of education. They work at universities and colleges, in media, culture, business, politics and the public sector.



Readers of signandsight.com are very active on the Net. They use the Internet primarily as a source of news and commentary, and are keen to have signandsight.com establish a readers' forum that would allowing them to participate in discussions.

They read signandsight.com every day or very often, preferably at home. Their favourite sections are: In Today's Feuilletons, Magazine Roundup and the translated features. They are interested in books, politics and society, film, art, photography, architecture and music, both mainstream and alternative. They appreciate quality journalism and try to keep up on current cultural and intellectual trends.

signandsight.com's readers are cosmopolitan, and enjoy widening their horizons. They are interested in cultural difference and are on the look-out for what is new and unknown. Most readers (86%) speak at least one foreign language. Although signandsight.com only appears in English, half of all our users are non-native speakers.



"How many foreign languages do you speak?"



25% of readers are perfectly happy with the site at it is. The others want more of signandsight.com:


More Europe

Many readers think that we should translate articles not only from the German press, but also from other European countries. Currently there is no European online service that gives a daily press review and translates selected articles from non-English-speaking countries, making them available to an international readership. We agree: it is high time that the most interesting articles from the French, Dutch, Hungarian or Polish press appeared regularly in English. Please consult our manifesto for more on this topic. But for now, we don't have the means to support such an undertaking. "That would be a phenomenal service, but I imagine it would be logistically difficult," writes one reader. True!

We were surprised to discover how curious readers from other continents are to learn more about Europe. They're interested in everything: European identity, Islam in Western Europe, minorities in Eastern Europe, voices from the Balkan press, the most interesting new publications, the most important festivals, history, geography, customs and tourist attractions. "signandsight.com seems to be awakening a fondness for the Old Continent I thought I had lost. It is a delight. Thank you," writes one reader. But even Europeans would like to see more Europe in signandsight.com: "To me, suffocating in a provincial self-centred culture in England, your website is gentle breeze from Europe."


More translations

Some find it irritating that we often link to articles that we do not translate. Again, we would love to put all the articles from the German and the European press online in English, but we have to draw the line somewhere.
Others complained that some of the links are set to articles in foreign languages other than German. We try – as with the Magazine Roundup – to identify the publications such that the reader knows in what language they're written.


More Germany

One reader writes that we should publish "more articles with German subjects and fewer articles on English language books and movies." Others would like more book reviews, a list of the current top books and films, "a more individual voice on Berlin's culture than the one in the mainstream papers," more about classic German literature, an in-depth listings calendar (What's on) and more about the alternative music scene in Germany. "There are a lot of innovative musicians out there that don't get much of a plug here in Australia." One reader would appreciate an interactive map of Germany, "to have readers more easily situate where things are happening. I have the impression there is no 'feel' for the land on your site... you know?" Well, we're working on it...


Reader's forum about the English language

We wanted to know "what you think about the predominance of English on the Internet. Should it be the lingua franca of the Internet?" Hundreds of answers show that we aren't the only ones preoccupied with questions of cultural globalisation.

"Si, da, ja, oui, yup"
Most readers say, "It already is... until Chinese overtakes it!" One Chinese respondent asks, "What choice is there other than English?" A French reader notes, "English gives me access to the entire world in a way that French, my native tongue, does not." Another reader from Catalonia celebrates English as "a modern Esperanto." Many English native speakers are aware how lucky they are: "As a native speaker of English, I feel a bit guilty about having such good fortune," writes one.

English is connecting cultures
"English has become the background noise of the globally connected masses. I would like to think of it as the soup stock in which all the other languages contribute the flavours and spices of varied cultures." Many see English as a language of global inter-cultural dialogue: "It allows me to get a better perspective on other people's views and ideas," writes one respondent. For another, English in the Internet is "the only way to cover the world." However, "it is important not to neglect 'smaller' languages." This reader sees our site as an indispensable "cross-language website. I like the way signandsight.com uses the English language as a way of opening up other cultural spaces."

Cultural diversity in danger
The predominance of the English language would "make this world a very poor place," writes one reader. Another complains of the Americanisation of Germany: "So much of German culture today bears the influence of English - from pop music, to business, science and scholarly writing to films and literature - that I often wonder how the great German writers and thinkers of the past would have navigated in this English sea." Only one reader pleads desperately "No! That would lead to a dumbing down of English."

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