Our data suggest at least three reasons for this. The first reason is that the websites of most institutions are not published in more than one or two languages. We also found that a single linguistic accent or special character in the search query could significantly alter the number and content of health-related search results retrieved by Google.
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However, we found that there was a 2- to fold higher Google search rate for health and food terms in the native language of a country compared to English see Table 2. Finally, within a nation, it might be assumed that language would not be a problem if a domestic agency only published their health websites in the majority language of their own people.
However, we found that in Asia and Western Europe, a subset of immigrants from Indonesia and Turkey, respectively, searched Google for health and food information in their native language, not the language s of their adopted countries see Table 3. In Sub-Saharan Africa, we detected unexpectedly high search rates for health information in non-colonial European languages see Table 4 , perhaps reflecting the presence of international aid workers. Finally, in Latin America, we found that indigenous words were used to search Google for information about food, rather than the colonial language of Spanish see Table 5.
Therefore, domestic agencies, in addition to global agencies, face a linguistic challenge when publishing information online: their target audiences still require information to be published in different languages, even though Internet users are presumably more educated and thus more multilingual than the general population. To achieve such translation goals, better health-specific translation software must be developed and more translators are needed who specialize in human health and food security terminology.
For example, improved cross-language search retrieval [ 23 ] of health information by online search engines would be beneficial. In a world that is primarily non-English speaking, such attempts will help to reduce the linguistic digital divide in health and food information on the World Wide Web. Furthermore, as we did in this study see Table 2 to Table 5 , we recommend that when global or domestic health and food security organizations wish to use the Internet to disseminate information to other nations [ 28 ] or to their own immigrant or indigenous communities, they should first consult search engine query rates for different translations of possible search terms in order to determine which online languages are most needed.
Multimedia Appendix 2 contains extensive linguistic online search pattern data to help health and food agencies better select languages for targeted website publishing. In order to measure search rates for other subjects of interest, we note that free online tools exist, such as Google Trends. In some situations, such as targeting indigenous groups, who often speak the majority language of a nation, all that may be needed is to imbed translated keywords into a majority-language website eg, Spanish so that search engines such as Google can cross-retrieve relevant information.
International Search Engines, SEO for Baidu, Naver, Yandex
Though this study examined the extent to which agencies such as the WHO are publishing information in multiple languages, we did not systematically address the quality of health and food information available in different languages. As to the quality of the websites that are available, this will require systematic analysis, which poses significant methodological problems [ 30 ]. One could, however, perform a subjective survey-based evaluation by multilingual physicians, as has been performed to evaluate disease-specific websites published in English [ 31 ]. No external sponsors were involved in the preparation or review of this manuscript.
National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. J Med Internet Res. Published online Jun Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.
Corresponding author. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Background While it is known that the majority of pages on the World Wide Web are in English, little is known about the preferred language of users searching for health information online.
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Objectives 1 To help global and domestic publishers, for example health and food agencies, to determine the need for translation of online information from English into local languages. Methods To estimate the percentage of Web publishers that translate their health and food websites, we measured the frequency at which domain names retrieved by Google overlap for language translations of the same health-related search term.
Conclusions 1 Based on the strong preference for searching the Internet for health information in the local language, indigenous language, or immigrant language of origin, global and domestic health and food agencies should continue their efforts to translate their institutional websites into more languages. Keywords: Health, Internet, Google, language, indigenous, food security, immigrant, avian flu, tuberculosis, maize, schizophrenia, nutrition, linguistic. Introduction The World Wide Web has more than 15 billion pages [ 1 ] and has become an important source of health-related information [ 2 - 5 ].
Methods Measuring the Extent to Which Health and Food Agencies Translate Websites When an online publisher translates its Web site across languages, the same source domain name can be found in the different result lists of a search engine when entering different translated search terms. Measurements of Online Search Rates and Language Choice For each of the four terms and their translations, we measured the rate at which users from different countries searched Google Multimedia Appendix 2. Table 1 Overlap in the institutional domain names retrieved by Google to measure the extent to which institutions translate websites across languages.
Open in a separate window. Language-Specific Searching of Infectious Disease Information Though we did not retrieve many WHO- and CDC-affiliated Web pages when we searched across different languages, one possibility is that Internet users, many of whom are well-educated, are supplementing their Google searches for online health information by searching in English.
Language of Online Mental Health Information Searches In terms of mental health, many developing nations have to fold fewer psychiatrists per capita than many developed nations [ 17 ] Table 2. The Online Search Rates of Immigrant Minorities In some developed nations, there is concern that immigrant groups might spread infectious diseases. Table 3 Online search rates of immigrant minorities.
Table 5 The effect of region-specific cultural and indigenous terminology. Discussion Principal Results In a world where infectious disease pandemics and threats of famine are always present, and in spite of the fact that the World Wide Web offers great hope for rapid and accurate sharing of information between peoples, we have demonstrated that one linguistic group does not or cannot access the health and food security websites of a different linguistic group.
Language Preferences on Websites and in Google Searches for Human Health and Food Information
Future Studies Though this study examined the extent to which agencies such as the WHO are publishing information in multiple languages, we did not systematically address the quality of health and food information available in different languages. Multimedia Appendix 1 Language translations used in this study pdf Click here to view. Multimedia Appendix 2 Rate at which users from different countries searched Google xls Click here to view.
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