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Is the Internet Suffering from Acute 'Englishitis'?
January 30, 2002 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Is the Internet Suffering from Acute 'Englishitis'? "...the advantage among Net surfers will soon no longer belong to English-speaking users but rather to those who master several languages. Multilingualism is without a doubt the future of the network...."
posted by papalotl (18 comments total)

 
We'll be hearing this forever. It's like the US converting to the meter system. As long as Engish speaking people are at the top of the food chain, English will be the common language. Look how Latin remained a common language for so long.
posted by geoff. at 12:18 PM on January 30, 2002


Each culture must contribute its "storey" to the virtual tower of Babel. Diversity is not to be feared; on the contrary, it is the basis of the capacity of humankind to survive, even as it adapts to new contexts.

You mean like this? Honestly, I'm surprised that the various translation services available weren't mentioned. The Fish and various other similar pages allow multilingualism to at least function on the internet, if not flourish. As translation technology gets better, and perhaps gets built into browsers, this will only become more true.

What happens to culture and language when you don't know what language the page you're viewing was originally in?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:23 PM on January 30, 2002


Who writes English? I write American. We rule!
posted by Postroad at 12:28 PM on January 30, 2002


Que viva el español en la red!!!
posted by papalotl at 12:30 PM on January 30, 2002


Like books, you'll be able to choose whatever language you choose. It still won't change the fact that, oh, 75% of all good books are in English(including translations from other languages), 15% in French and German and the other 10% in all the other Western languages put together.

Meaning we all write in whatever language is our own but, when it comes to reading and communicating on the Internet, it's always going to be overwhelmingly English. Which is good, because we know where we are.

That said, Babelfish and specially Google are worse than nothing when it comes to translation.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:39 PM on January 30, 2002


Hmm... Some day along with coding for browser compatibility, I'll have to design my webpages with language compatibility as well. I'll have a job forever! wahahahhhaaaaah.
<ahem> sorry. I think I just wet myself
posted by FreezBoy at 12:49 PM on January 30, 2002


&#25105; &#20204; &#22810; &#35828; &#32654; &#22269; &#35805; &#65281;

Hrm, mefi dosn't seem to want to support HTML extrans. Bad mefi bad!

Oh yes, Wo men duo shuo mei guo hua!
posted by delmoi at 1:03 PM on January 30, 2002


Meaning we all write in whatever language is our own but, when it comes to reading and communicating on the Internet, it's always going to be overwhelmingly English. Which is good, because we know where we are.

Um, what? Most people surf the web in their native languages. You don't see it because it has no value to you. Sure 90% of the content on the web is in english but 99% is completly worthless to anyone. The amount of information online in, say, Japanese is more then any japanese person could get through in their whole life.
posted by delmoi at 1:05 PM on January 30, 2002


English has a pretty good head start on being the international language as we begin this century: It's overwhelmingly (though by no means exclusively) the language of choice for international commerce and transportation. It's probably the world's most popular second language -- at least, I haven't seem my neigborhood high school offering Mandarin yet.

I'd love it if AI got to the point where we could have universal translators a la Star Trek, but meanwhile I think nonnative speakers of English who want to reach an international audience on the Web are going to publish in English, which will create a self-perpetuating syndrome.
posted by alumshubby at 1:09 PM on January 30, 2002


I'm entirely in favor of anything that encourages multilingualism, but I've yet to run into a situation on the net where I've been unable to find what I want because of not speaking a particular language. It only makes sense that as web access becomes more universal, a lot of pages in other languages will spring up. There will still be a bias towards English on commercial sites. It makes sense to have a single language that a lot of people learn to use. In some ways, it's a shame that that universal language is also my native language, but that's the reality.
posted by anapestic at 1:15 PM on January 30, 2002


Some day along with coding for browser compatibility, I'll have to design my webpages with language compatibility as well. I'll have a job forever!

Sorry to get techy on you, but all the major browsers already support language negotiation. Apache handles this out of the box, IIS probably does too.

A good explanation and example of this is on the debian linux site.
posted by paranoidfish at 1:17 PM on January 30, 2002


This way the intermediate hole it is high. not being able to express the various translation services which can be utilized honestly, I am surprised. Try to operate because the page foreign country language regular use to which the fish and various other things resemble does not become enlivened at least with Internet. Translation technology profit, being made well perhaps in the browser, being to be possible, this simply becomes true. When you where in the page where what kind of language you are viewing first is do not know something happens to culture and language?
-monju_bosatsu via Babelfish
Translation technology is still not quite here yet, IMO. Maybe soon, maybe never.
posted by swell at 1:29 PM on January 30, 2002


Babelfish does a pretty good job with French to English, but I wish the Spanish and German to English were a bit better.

I think people assume there aren't interesting sites in other languages because english pages generally link to other english pages...

Try using the Google image search and a couple of words in another language.
posted by Stuart_R at 1:31 PM on January 30, 2002


-Translation /localization/internationalization technologies are still evolving. Most large enterprise software still have vaporware when it comes to their internationalization modules. That sector was growing very fast, but thanks to the severe downturn in the software space, funding/investment has been drying up and there hasnt been a lot of improvements in the last 6 months - 1 year time frame.

- The internationalization modules that are currently available tend to be Eurocentric. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian (well, I guess they are Europeans now), Arabian etc. are huge markets in their own rights.

-Interestingly, one of the areas where the intel community is now funnelling investment is the lingusitics software sector. They realize that they have neither the human resources, nor technical tools that'll help them search, translate, collate content that are available in other languages. I understand they are pushing their vendors to work on Arabic more aggressively.

English does remain the lingua franca of the technology enthsusist market worldwide. It is also the second language/language of intellectual discourse in many of the commonwealth countries. But we would find that as Internet (hopefully) starts becoming more accessible to the general populace, in the villages, at homes in Asia, Africa and South America the language profile of Inetrnet will become a lot more diverse than it is right now.
posted by justlooking at 2:09 PM on January 30, 2002


I'm rather amazed (no, I'm not) that people have failed to notice that the conclusion of this article is that English has plateaued as the dominant language of the internet, and in fact the major languages are roughly proportionally represented right now.

English will continue to be one of the more important world languages, simply because of its ubiquity. Chinese in aggregate may have more speakers, but they're geographically concentrated. Spanish may be the official language of more coutnries, but they're regionally limited as well. English remains the language of technology.
posted by dhartung at 3:17 PM on January 30, 2002


It depends on who your target audience is. If you are a North Korean weapons of mass destruction factory, you probably want your web site in Arabic+Farsi. If you are Japanese and asking for donations to save the whales, you might try English. It's always going to be about who you want to reach.
posted by Mack Twain at 3:55 PM on January 30, 2002


"Oh, 75% of all good books are in English." Miguel, how do you judge what's good? Have you read all the books in all the languages out there? That's kind of subjective, isn't it?

"Wo men duo shuo mei guo hua!" Delmoi, §A»¡ªº'§Ú­Ì'¨ì©³¬OÁ¿½Ö. ¦b¥xÆW³oÃä§Ú­Ì³£¦bÁ¿°ê»y/´¶³q¸Ü©Î»Ô«n¸Ü.
posted by Poagao at 7:00 PM on January 30, 2002


"Oh, 75% of all good books are in English." Miguel, how do you judge what's good? Have you read all the books in all the languages out there? That's kind of subjective, isn't it?

I think that statement means, "Of all the good books that have been written, 75% have been written in English OR TRANSLATED to English". That seems fair enough - the best books in other languages are eventually translated to English.
posted by Neale at 7:27 PM on January 30, 2002


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