Will English Remain The Language Of The Internet?

from the Englishification-vs-localization dept

The debate has gone on for years as to whether or not English will remain the language of the internet. Since only 5% of the world’s population is a native English speaker (and another 5% speak it as an additional language to their primary one), it would seem that there’s plenty of room for other languages online. This article also suggests that people outside of the US will look on English-only websites as being too US-centric, which will make them less likely to do business with them. Instead, he suggests that websites that want a truly global audience look towards localizing their content. Of course, this presents lots of other problems, not the least of which is an incredible amount of duplication of content – all needed to be done by experts in other languages. If only tools like Babelfish actually worked to a reasonable level.

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Comments on “Will English Remain The Language Of The Internet?”

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dorpus says:

Job security for translators

As long as computers cannot understand an ontology of common sense, they will never be effective translators beyond a limited range of technical documentation.

Researchers have been building a database of common sense ontology, but it will be decades before the database is 1. big enough and 2. computers are fast enough to understand common-sense conversation.

Translation also offers a multitude of dilemmas — if the original speaker made grammatical errors, do you translate the error as well (and make yourself look like a bad translator)? What if the grammatical error has no equivalent in the other language? Also, what about idiom that makes no sense in the other language? Do you use 1. idiom in the other language (which probably means something somewhat different), 2. use an awkward literal translation, or 3. use an awkward paraphrase? What if the writing has layered meanings that cannot be translated?

That said, translation remains a highly anti-market-forces field in which personal connections are virtually the only thing that matters. There are terrible translators who get high-profile jobs dubbing newscasts, and great translators who can’t get jobs.

As for English competence spreading worldwide, there is also a reverse market force at work here: the worse that people are in English, the more they tend to believe their English is “good”. Getting good at another language is mostly about realizing one’s own ignorance.

dorpus says:

Deaf Supremacy

I’m also curious as to how the deaf culture will change when broadband will make it easier to send sign language images. For now they are just using text messagers.

Sign language is a kind of broadband language in its own right — in its advanced forms, it allows the speaker to talk about 3 different topics at the same time through the use of imaginary highway lanes in front of the speaker.

Ofnadwy says:

Re: Deaf Supremacy

I’m deaf myself so I thought I would reply to this.
Currently we’re very big on texting, yeah. And I actually think it’ll stay that way for quite a while as there’s a big problem with mobile telephones and sign language: Sign language often wants both hands, but you’re holding the phone in one so you get only one hand which is a bit awkward(though not impossible – just awkward.. like talking with food in your mouth, I suppose)
Still, of course it’ll be faster to just sign than to type.
Video telephony on stationary computers is slowly spreading, mostly on the workplaces. One big problem is that most videophone companies sacrifice framerates for image quality when it’s the framerate that’s the important thing(at least 20fps is needed) – I’m perfectly fine with QCIF quality(176×144) just so long it’s fluid and has low latency. But this is vanishing as more and more people get faster and faster connections – though it WILL be a problem for the first few years of 3G.

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