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You Say Tomato, I say Fan Jia Qie? 418

Troodon writes "The Guardian reports on James Murdoch's speech ( "You Say Tomato" ) to the The Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival. In which he argues that given the near-exponential internet growth? of the worlds most popular language, Mandrin (835 millon compared to 470 millon English speakers) and the potential of both Spanish (330 million) and Hindi (300 million), that the assumption that English (well american-english ) is both the inevitable linguistic and cultural lingua franca of the modern age is flawed. That tailored localised content rather than some unthinking americanized homogenization is the way ahead, that "English will [sic] not become the "default language" of the digital world"."
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You Say Tomato, I say Fan Jia Qie?

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  • You're entering into flamebait territory...
    Most Americans can use metric. Everyone who has taken a science course has had to learn the metric system. It might be difficult for us to have an idea in our head exactly what size 180 cm is but we do know how to convert or at least estimate.

    And, languages, even British English, do evolve over time. Languages are created by humans and can be changed by humans. So it doesn't really matter that the Americans spell "colour" without the "u". We (Americans) all know they're the same word, and so does everyone else.
  • by SigVn ( 166099 )
    Oh yea Slashdot needs a spell checker.

    Or I need to learn English

  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @04:15AM (#823024)
    Umm...many countries have networks thtat can easily stand on their own.

    If the US were to disappear off the net, it would be noticed everywhere, yes.. but the global internet would persist.

    THe internet is not something you control.. it's a bunch of computers hooked together, and people can put whatever they *want* up there. NO, you have NO degree of control because you 'invented' it.

  • Mr. and Mrs. Yahoo Pushbutton can't buy a Hindi, Mandarin, or Spanish keyboard

    I agree English will dominate for a while, but how long do you think the classic keyboard will be around? I'm not just talking speech recognition, which is still problematic, but think of the variety of new computing devices coming out, like phones, webpads, organizers, etc., with touch screens and so on.

    I for one would like something like a standard keyboard, but reconfigurable: ie all the keys would have little lcd screens, and the keyboard could change according to the app. There's something so... static and hardwired about keyboards, just the way teletypes and early displays were hardwired for one character set.
  • Oops, my bad. You're right, of course. He just lived here.

    Anyway, my point was that there are some things that weren't invented by Americans.

  • Drop Esperanto in favor of:
  • Sorry, but you are way off.

    Hindi is, and will continue to be for a long time, the official language of India. It is spoken by over 50% of the Indian population. No other Indian language, or English comes close percentage-wise.

    English is indeed a unifying language - but only among the technological or otherwise educated elite. I use the word "technological" as an adjective here : the people who are trained in technology are very few in number, and they make more money than the average Joe. The average Joe speaks the regional language, and (most of the time) some Hindi.

  • "juice"? I got the chow hai bit, but how'd you do your post translation?
  • Simple fact: the web is centered around technology. The greater percentage of web use is technology related. English speaking countries, namely England and the United States lead the entire world in the development of technology (by volume, not by level of technology: Japan leads there). We also buy far more than any other country. So doesn't it make sence for the people creating the technology and using the technology would talk about it's creation and use in their own laguage? Doesn't it make sence that anyone wishing to break into this economy must learn to use our language to do so?

    English is the defacto standard not because we arogant Americans made it so, but because all other countries did. I say keep the moronic fairness freaks out of free trade!

  • I think you mean Elisha Gray. Although Bell patented the idea first, it seems that his final prototype version borrowed from Gray's incarnation.
  • I've been getting 5-10 spams in Mandarin per day for months. Occasionally I get a german or spanish spam.

    However, the last counts and projections I've seen on use of the internet engish speakers are by far the majority, with growth in China expected to be very modest (possibly due to lack of infrastructure or the central govt deciding who to trust or places party faithful in the role of snooping email, content, etc.) I've already conducted business with chinese parties via the net, but all, of course spoke the language of commerce (English)

    Vote [] Naked 2000
  • China's insular attitude, however, prevented their languages from becoming any sort of "World Language." This is still true today.
  • Some people might assume he is just ranting, but this guy has a very good point. IIRC, Hindi speakers from different regions can't understand each other's Hindi very well, due to regional dialects, but almost everybody speaks English fairly well, because it is emphasized in their schools. You can't even do business within India without being able to speak English.

    In addition to being the language of business for most of the globe, it is also well-suited to electronic transmission, because of the relatively small alphabet. English is easilly done with good ol' one-byte-per-character ASCII text.

  • Hello,
    Theres nothing wrong with it, I just wanted to point out that I had edited the young Mr Murdoch's text from 'would' to 'will'. Out of context of the rest of the paragraph, it didnt seem to flow well.
    Release the hounds... :)
  • No. America is currently leading the race, and America currenlty develops most of the things that YOU want to look at.

    Believe it or not, some countries, even outsdie the use, are per-capita MORE wired than the US, and have LESS red-tape involved in rolling out high-bandwidth. Sure.. they might not be as economically viable.. but it actually costs less to lay cable elsewhere.

    America doesn't fucking 'run the internet'. America runs those portions of the internet that are IN AMERICA.

  • and since the internet, upon which Berners-Lee and others collaborated at CERN, was invented by Americans, perhaps they should have only conversed in English.

    Do you see how stupid this can get?
  • > Stupidity and ignorance are well spread among humans,
    > it is not something that is purely American.

    You give some good reasons why Americans might by stupid. But I see no argument why they should not be.
    My experience with U.S. people is that their horizon is very limited. They just can't imagine that there may be more than one truth.
    Of course there are also lot of bright U.S.-Americans. Those that actually crossed the border (without falling off flat earth). Anyway, discussing this on Slashdot is a bit like preaching to the choir.

  • 1) that's not what "sic" conveys (it's meant for an error acknowledged). The right puncutation for what you did is [] brackets.

    2) The real "(sic)" should have come after "become" because obviously the correct word is "be". English is *already* the default language of the digital world; the question is whether it will continue to be so in the future.
  • First of all, Mandarin is a spoken dialect; the written language (which I presume is what we're talking about with the Web) is called "Simplified-Character Chinese", or just "Chinese". It can be read by speakers of other dialects (Cantonese, Shanghainese, Shantounese, etc).

    (and yes, the poster above is confused, too. Han is a race, not a language)

    Second, remember that Murdoch has a reason to suck up to the Chinese. Remember his father's remark that "satellites are an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regiemes everywhere."? Well that cost Star TV (Murdoch's Asian sat venture) access to the China market for a decade. Since then father and son have let no opportunity to make ammends pass. Consider this another brown-nose exercise.
  • by FascDot Killed My Pr ( 24021 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @03:00AM (#823042)
    Judging from the submitted text of this story, English isn't [sic] the language of the web now.
  • by garethwi ( 118563 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @03:01AM (#823045) Homepage
    ...what's Mandarin for first post, then?
  • Therefore I think it is only fair that we have some degree of control over which language is the standard for the Internet. Seeing as how the U.S. was almost solely responsible for the creation, mass marketing, and globalization of the internet as we know it, the United States' official language should be the official language of the internet.

    Of course if the main language of the U.S. is chosen to remain as the official language of the net, don't be too surprised if the net becomes dominantly Spanish in a few years :P

  • by FascDot Killed My Pr ( 24021 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @03:07AM (#823055)
    You quote the numbers of Mandarin, Hindu and Spanish speakers as though that were somehow related to the point. English isn't widespread because it has so many native speakers. English is widespread because it is the language of the (current) World Empire. 1500 years ago "everyone" (who was anyone) spoke Latin. 1000 years before that, "everyone" spoke Greek. Today "everyone" speaks English.
  • UTF is a compacted, variable-length version of UNICODE cleverly defined so that an ASCII string is also a UTF string (all the non-ASCII UNICODE characters set the sign bit in every byte, which isn't used by ASCII). The net effect is that the UNIX kernel can accept UTF strings for filenames, etc, without a single line of kernel code needing to be changed.
  • i was never one for syntax. but you get the gist.

    where did i screw up? it's been 4 years since i last spoke the language.

    After 16 years, MTV has finally completed its deevolution into the shiny things network
  • Keyboards are cheap. The last two I bought cost $5 and $10. Both were made in China.

    Keyboards are trivial to replace.

    Splitter cables are easy to come by and cheap.

    I can't immagine that some company isn't already making a few dozen different _cheap_ keyboards for everything from Korean to Vietnamese, let alone Japaneese and M. Chineese.

    If you're American, when is the last time you used a British keyboard? (If British, reverse the question.)

    Code is different, though.

  • As far as I can tell, Ü sounds like the long "oo" in English. At least that's the way I learned it. Blame my German instructor if you will. (She was from Thuringen.)

    Sorry, that sounds like a regular "U" not "Ü"

    If you want a wowel that seems unpronounceable to english speakers, try "U" as pronounced in northern europe. Ask Linus Torvalds how he pronounces "Linux" or his own name...

    (Damnit, I know I had a link to a soundclip with him somewhere)

  • Hey, how come is it they won't let you register domain names with arbitrary Unicode characters in them? Why can't you buy []? Yes, this is perfectly valid: the name is UTF8-encoded and then %-encoded as part of the URL (and the DNS specifications do allow binary data). If I didn't mess it up too much, (your browser should show this as two Chinese ideograms) means "China" in Chinese (disclaimer: I don't know Chinese).

    Before such languages as Chinese and Hindi become truly usable on the Internet, support for the Unicode [] standard will have to make much progress. Click here [] to see how badly your browser supports Unicode.

  • Apart from the second language argument, much of the technological innovation comes from countries who either speak English or have it as a dominant second language.

    I don't see China designing new Microprocessors, or encouraging the kind of free thinking needed to compete on internet time. For the most part the high volume contenders are mostly rural and second world (?) in nature.

    Murdoch is probably pandering because he wants to move into China. Let's face it when it comes to online business Murdoch has shown so much acumen that his ventures to date have been an utter disaster.
  • I agree with the words but disagree with the sentiment.
    It won't becouse it has...
    The failing is the notion that the default language has yet to be selected...
    Reality is that language was picked in the 1980s..

    The alternitive is Babblefish or some similer agent.

    English in my view sucks eggs...
    But shear numbers in the real world won't budge the vertual world.

    To be exact it's broken english... not American english.

    The masses may not speak it.. but thats where the Internet is.

    Most websites have a US or UK flag for the english version.. or are english by default.
    IRC channels function in much the same way.. mostly english.

    On IRC I personally tolerate chatter in any language as long as at least two people speak the language. If only the speaker knows what he is saying then I'll get annoyed.
    But I'm the rarity...
    Not all IRC channels are english of course.. just the majority..

    Usenet.. how many people twitch to read (or even type) "This is an international newsgroup please use english"... It's irritating but thats the way it is.

    The Internet is... in short... United States centric... It's foundation is in english.

    expect to see more and more non-english websites.. irc channels.. and newsgroups...
    But at least for now... to be involved the language is English...

    Once the net is larg enough to support a more diverse language base this will cease to be....

    And then we'll all need BableFish built into our web browsers....
  • One of the easiest explanations I have seen for English speakers on how to pronounce "Ü" is as follows:

    Put your mouth in the postion to say the "oo" in say "moon" - now without moving your mouth say "ee" as in "lean".

    Hope that helps...

  • Indeed, French is meaningless compared to Mandarin, Hindi, English, Spanish... But don't forget French is spoken in Switzerland, Belgium, Canada and most of Western Africa. I'm not even counting all former or actual French colonies.

    It's important that information can reach those who don't and/or can't get to learn English. You'd be amazed by the amount of people who can't speak English, even in industrialised countries, and I don't see a valid reason for marginalising those people...

    As long as there's real translators, things will be fine. And it should provide good jobs to those who can master several languages. Heck, I'm working on a site that's supposed to be in a dozen languages or so, and lemme tell you the translators take big bucks...


  • Why aren't there translators built right in to modern programming languages, so that I can write it in English, but if you are a Mandarin speaker and want to read my code you simply have to hit a button (or whatever) and it translates the results into the Mandarin version. We are not talking a lot of actual words here. Most computer programming languages probably have no more than a couple of thousand "words" in use. A lot of flags etc could be kept the same.

    This ought to be just as true of Operating Systems. I imagine the Chinese government is busily redefining the text in "Red Flag" Linux for instance.

  • Indeed, French is meaningless compared to Mandarin, Hindi, English, Spanish... But don't forget French is spoken in ... Canada.

    Well, just to pick nits, French (Quebecois, actually, which real French speakers regard as a bastardized creole) is spoken in Quebec and a couple nearby pockets. In the majority of the country it's a nonentity.

    For instance, here in Vancouver French is the 49th most common native language of children enrolled with the Vancouver school board ... just behind Tagalog. Your first statement is dead on. Particularly with Mandarin and Hindi, which are 2 and 3 behind English respectively.
  • by wukong888 ( 212505 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @04:48AM (#823120)
    I'd like to find out how many Mandarin speakers know a second language given China is such a geographically large area. I'll bet it's only a small percentage.

    This is a fairly complicated topic. First of all, in many areas of China mandarin is not the language commonly spoken by the native people.There are many "dialects", a misnomer in that dialects of Chinese are dialects in the same sense that Spanish, Italian and French are dialects of one another- many Chinese dialects cannot be understood by Mandarin speakers. For example, say we are in Shanghai. Local people all speak Shanghainese to each other (Shanghainese is one of the main Wu dialects, which are spoken in east-central China). Shanghainese and Mandarin have about the same relation as English and German, or possibly more distant. Still, everybody in Shanghai is taught Mandarin in school, and most television is in Mandarin. Plus, written Chinese is more or less the same no matter what dialect you speak, although there are some minor differences.

    On the mainland, most everybody has to study a "second language", actually a third language(the favorites are English(probably over 90%) Japanese and Russian);however, people there have the same problems that Americans have in that they have little chance to practice speaking and small chance of ever going to another country where they have the chance to interact with native speakers.

    In addition, Chinese English instruction is more focused on written language anyway. As a result, many educated people can read and write quite well, but if you talked to them would have more difficulty in communicating.

  • by mOdQuArK! ( 87332 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @09:34AM (#823130)
    From my gut level impression of the current state of the net, I don't agree with you. Most of the major backbones for the global 'net go through the US (feel free to point out some backbone points which don't).

    If all the US backbones collapsed, the net would break into many individual regional networks, with some very slow links between each region. Over time, the regions would rebuild high-speed links between each other, but given the level of investment that has been expended inside the US for the current network infrastructure, at least a few years to bring the net status back to its current state and performance.
  • When referring to your nationality it sounds awkward to me to omit the article ("un")...I could be mistaken of course

    There's no problem with that, any more than there is omitting it in English.

    "Tu" and "Te" would both be translated into english as "you", but they are different. Unfortunately I lack the grammar lingo to explain the difference.

    Tu == subject. Te == object. Yes, it's more complicated than that, but let's start simple :)
  • AFAIK, English is the worlds biggest second language. If two people from different countries want to communicate, english is the most likely common denominator.

    As you are introduced to the larger world, t makes sense to learn the language used there. In order for this to be Mandarin, you'd need a massive influx of Mandarin speakers _and_ people learning to speak Mandarin as their international language. Not likely at the moment, but certainly possible later if China makes a big push for internet access for all. If, instead, they merely contine introducing people to the internet in dribs and drabs, the slow conversion will continue.
  • Take a look at what the most common *second* language is for all those Mandarin, Hindi, and Spanish speakers.

    Next, note that Mandarin is extremely difficult to touch-type; there are a few Big-5 word processors out there, but it doesn't have anywhere near the support base of *any* of the European languages, with their repeatable phoneticization and limited character set. Hindi has many of the same problems - look how many Indian programmers there are, then look at what languages they write in. English-derivatives, right.

    English has an installed-user base in computing that dwarfs the other natural languages.

    English also has a head start because it is already in place as the language for aviation.
  • typing Chinese isn't that hard---- if you have some sort of input program you can type in pinyin, which is the method that pretty much everyone I know uses, after which you pick out the character you want to use from a list, which in most cases will remember the most commonly used characters----it's the fact that you already have to be able to read and write Chinese fairly well in the first place in order to be able to type, because you have to know what character you are looking for on the list, which is not as easy as it sounds as many times there are say 20-30 characters to choose from.

    In Taiwan it is supposedly different: they have their own keyboard that uses their own writing system that is derived from chinese but is nevertheless a way of phonetically spelling chinese words. I don't think that many people outside of Taiwan use this system, but in Taiwan they have computer keyboards with this writing on the keys.

  • Well, well, isn't this an unexpected story from The Guardian:) The real point is that the Web (&Internet for those who know the difference) uses whatever language it's users want to use. The induhviduals and corps who make websites want to attract a target audience. They will post in whatever language[s] suit this aim.

    How are you going to stop them? Language police? Don't laugh, there already is in Quebec, and I wouldn't be surprised if France moved that way. But many commercial websites are multi-lingual already.

    The real point is that even if English isn't the first language of the world, it is just about _EVERYONES_ second language.

  • by Kickasso ( 210195 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @03:13AM (#823154)
    As Gutenberg invented the printing press, I hereby mandate that all printed material will be in German.

    Dude, your .sig rocks :)

  • (at least for manderin .. :)

    Did you ever see chinese people typing chinese ? It is VERY complicated, and there are a NUMBER of methods typing them.

    The problem among those is, that you have to learn quite a lot, before you can type chinese on the computer ...

    Samba Information HQ
  • Of course there is no single language of the digital world. Duh! English as a language is enjoying wide spread use because the bulk of the cash is sitting in English speaking countries. If folks are learning English as a 2nd language, they are doing so in order to trade with the US and Britain.

    And before the left wing around here goes after me with pitch forks and flaming torches, I should add that theres nothing either new or evil about this. It's the natural relationship that language and trade have had for centuries. Now that trade has moved into the cyber realms doesn't change the fact of where the cash is located.
  • English is doomed as a native language.

    Why? Because it is becoming so widely used (= embraced and extended) by non-native speakers, that it will become too wide to grasp as a first language. Too complex for every day use.

    What we will see is the development of "American" and "British" (and australian and so on). Languages that stem from what we today call english, but develop their own grammar and vocabulary.

    Todays english will evolve as an intercommunication tool between people. A language for scientific papers, diplomats, tourists and other border crossing communication. Not for people.

    Just like Latin died as a natural language, but survived as a diplomatic/scientific language, while branches like Italian and Spanish survived.

  • by joel.neely ( 165789 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @03:14AM (#823170)

    This reminds me of the old joke:

    Q: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?

    A: Trilingual

    Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages?

    A: Bilingual

    Q: What do you call someone who speaks one language?

    A: American

    Perhaps it's time we admit that the North American continent isn't the center of the planet. For examples from history of those who lost thier perspective, consider the Babylonians, Alexandrian Greeks, Romans, and the various European maritime empires (no offense intended). The point is that the surest way to become irrelevant in the long run is to assume that it can't happen.

    Ob-Tech-Relevance: Anybody remember the days of IBM's dominance? How about Microsoft's?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Quiere eso decir que tengo 5% de posibilidades de que alguien entienda lo que estoy escribiendo? Supongo que la probabilidad crece si resto los 2000+ millones de personas que hablan solo lenguas asiáticas, pero no dramáticamente (7%). Aunque si considero que /. es leído principalmente por habitantes de países cuya lengua es inglesa (o al menos eso parecen pensar los editores en vista del tipo de artículos que publican últimanete) las posibilidades decrecen otra vez. Y decrecen aún más si considero que los 300 millones de hispanohablantes se ubican principalmente en América Latina, donde probablemente un fracción menor de la población tiene acceso a Internet si se le compara con otras regiones del mundo. Now moderators, I dare you to say this is Offtopic. Even more, I dare you to get the modaration right for once...
  • Oh really? Please enlighten me! Or are you talking about the Chinese learning various dialects then counting Mandarin as a second language? Ditto for the Indians learning Hindi?

    At the risk of offending linguistic purists, I am specifically excluding dialects and unofficial languages. I count learning the offical language of the native country as the first language. Of course, there are large numbers of people who never learn this offical language. But I maintain that English is the most common second language using this definition.
  • To make the obvious computer OS metaphor, English is more like Linux, rather than Windows.

    • English is based on Germanic languages, plus Latin and French primarily, but it borrows from other languages freely - if a word is useful it gets Anglicized and becomes part of the language. If a program or tool in another OS is useful, a Linux version is quickly developed.
    • It doesn't have a consistent interface. The flavours of English vary considerably, and it has many idiomatic usages, and a confusing orthography, while remaining an extremely useful tool overall. Linux shares with Unix its cryptic command line syntax which varies from command to command.
    • It is gaining in popularity over time. English has become a dominant linguistic medium because of its flexibility.

    Windows is more like Latin than English. If a new concept was encountered, a Latin-based version was created, rather than adopting a foreign word (this is a broad generalization of course, and perhaps French would be a better example). Besides, like Latin, Windows is a dead language.... :)

  • ... so I think all male TV presenters should be made wear kilts.

    An American also invented the telephone - should everything that isn't America's version of English be banned on that medium?

  • by Overt Coward ( 19347 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @08:05AM (#823201) Homepage
    It's no so much that, as it is that in the cases of Mandarin and Hindu, that the languages, while spoken by a large number of people, is still very mch so a regional language, because there are no predominantly Mandarin or Hindu speaking aras in other parts of the worlds (other than certain neighborhoods in larger cities).

    English (or some variant thereof) is still a primary or secondary language in large economic centers spaced all over the world, thanks mostly to British colonialization and the reach of American industry. As long as a significant portion of international commerce is run through these centers (US, Canada, England, Hong Kong, Australia, etc.), English will remain a dominant "world" language.


  • by Docrates ( 148350 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @08:07AM (#823202) Homepage
    Cuando a un mensaje como este no le quiten puntos de moderacion solo por estar en espanol, sabremos que el ingles no es el idioma oficial de las nuevas tecnologias. Mientras tanto, es casi necesario saber ingles para poder estar al dia con el desarrollo tecnologico...
  • You quote the numbers of Mandarin, Hindu and Spanish speakers as though that were somehow related to the point.

    And he quotes some pretty weird number for English. Most estimates put English and Spanish head-to-head for native speakers in the 300M area, and English far more ahead than 470M for native + second language speakers. For example, one can look at the SIL Ethnologue [] and its list of the top 100 languages [] (counting native speakers), and they actually count more Spanish speakers than English.

    My guess is that whoever gives the 470M figure has a very liberal definition of what "English" is, and includes speakers of English-based creoles.

  • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld AT gmail DOT com> on Monday August 28, 2000 @03:19AM (#823207) Homepage
    You have to remember, the guy who gave this speech has a great deal riding on whether what he's saying comes true or not; his company's website [] indicates that his job is to produce content for Asian markets (ironically, a quick scan of the website shows that they offer plenty of American shows and movies)

    And his premise is pretty much wrong because, for good or ill, English is already the international language, and was long before the internet came about.
    That said, he did bring up some good points. To tell you the truth, -I- can't bring myself to watch American TV, and I've lived here my whole life. I don't know how the rest of the world gets so addicted to it.
  • Anybody who reads of any language becoming "default" or "standard" should be insulted. Take pride in your language, and have respect for others. If you want me to speak your language, I want you to speak mine! If you want somebody to understand you, LEARN THEIR LANGUAGE! You'll learn more than a language, but all about many cultures!

    disclaimer: due to ignorance, this poster requests that those who speak languages other than English translate so that all may hear the wisdom that is Andrew Dvorak;) ..

  • I just ran a poll with a few of my buddies on IRC. It appears that l33t speak has several hundred million speakers.

  • A second language, except for possibly Spanish, isn't that useful in the United States. If I wanted to talk to my coworkers in their native languages, I would have to learn Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Russian, Hindi and probably others. Every one of them can speak English.
  • The internet was created in America. I see no problem with the "digital world" existing in any language, it's up to the speakers of that language to implement it and make it work. This talk of the digital world being "flawed" because twice as many people speak Mandarin over English seems very socialistic. Everyone has equal opportunity to develop the digital world, and no one is going to stop anybody. I don't assume that english is going to be the default language of the digital world, but I don't look at the demographics and say: "Oh, no! Twice as many people speak Mandarin and we need 2/3 of the web pages on our server to be in Mandarin." Perhaps I should, perhaps if I did my web pages would be useful to a larger audience--but *"HOLDING ME ACCOUNTABLE"* for doing that, as the article states, is a socialistic standard and infringes on my rights to publish what I want to publish. I would be happy if every language group was represented, but that is not necessarily my RESPONSIBILITY, and this speech seems to preach that it should be.
  • by crisco ( 4669 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @06:27AM (#823220) Homepage
    I refer you to a recent Ask Slashdot [] that posed the question, English Language And Its Effect On Programming?

    The consensus I got from the discussion (YMMV) was that programming was a universal concept, that even though the labels may differ, the language constructs themselves remain the same.

    Given that, how long does it take to learn those labels, even if they are in a different language.

    IMO, the language barrier to the programming languages themselves is only a minor speedbump. When you start to consider the documentation and manuals, though, it becomes a larger obstacle. But you cannot write off the value of a like minded community, Linux being a formost example. Who needs manuals when you can ask your buddy or hop on IRC and get answers?

    The only other obstacle for non-English speakers is the technology that is widely available. But many countries are closing the gap at a surprising pace.

    How long before The Seminal Programming text for the language / paradigm of your choice is in a language you don't speak and you have to rely on babelfish until someone decides to translate it?

  • Ah, one of my favorite pet peeves. You've completely misunderstood the way Unicode [] works on web pages; but it's not really your fault, it's because Netscape Navigator is completely broken in this respect (it's far more - and far worse - than broken, in fact).

    Neither the HTTP headers sent by Slashdot nor the preamble of the HTML file specify a character encoding. Therefore the encoding is the default encoding, i.e. ISO-8859-1 (aka latin-1). What you've written, then, is not "sayonara" but "comma cube comma ae comma E-grave comma c-cedilla". If you see anything else, your browser is broken! You've posted Shift_JIS-encoded data in an ISO-8859-1-encoded page and that doesn't make sense.

    Now this does not mean that you can't have Japanese in HTML, even if the page is encoded as ISO-8859-1. Indeed, "at the bottom", every HTML document is written in Unicode, and every Unicode character is available, if not readily though the encoding (not necessarily UTF-8), then at least through SGML numeric entities of the form &#xxxxx; (where xxxxx is the decimal form of the Unicode character number). Consequently, the correct way of posting "sayonara" is "" (which I've written as "&#12737;&#12424;&#12394;&#12425;"). Again, if you see anything else than the hiragana for "sayonara" here (or perhaps a transcription of it, e.g. with lynx), especially if you see latin-1 characters, again, your browser is broken.

    The brokenness about Netscape is that it assumes that numeric SGML character entities are to be interpreted in the current document encoding, and that is completely wrong. They should always be interpreted as Unicode character numbers. So this has somehow led to the conception that the basic HTML character data is in the character set of the encoding, which it is not! Fortunately, Mozilla repairs this brokenness, hopefully before any serious damage is done.

    I posted another comment on this article to the effect that you can even have valid Chinese characters (in my example, , i.e. "China" in Chinese) in the host name part of a URL. It just happens that such domain names are not given out, but there is nothing wrong with it.

    For more examples of Unicode and to see how badly your browser is broken, follow this link [].

    Sorry about the rant. .

  • Western-Canadian(I assume) Guy,

    How many other "Vancouver"s in Canada are there, brainiac?

    There are 1 million French-speakers in Canada who don't live in Quebec.

    Latest numbers up at StatsCan say 930,000 and change, but even giving you the benefit of the doubt, that's out of 21.5 million Canadians outside Quebec. That works out to ... 3%. And almost half of those are in Ontario.

    3% is "nonentity" in my books, bucko. And no other province outside Ontario is anywhere near to even that.

    You either a) don't know what a "creole" is

    "a language formed from the contact of a European language (esp. English, French, or Portuguese) with another (esp. African) language."
    -- Concise Oxford

    Get a dictionary and a clue, dumbass.

    Noone in either country genuinely thinks the other is speaking a creole.


    Do we have any Parisiennes here to bitchslap this deluded loser?

    (Those of you who this is all going past: Frenchmen in France regard Quebecois as barely a step above the French spoken by Algerians. No matter what defensive boy here would like to fool himself into thinking.)

  • by jw3 ( 99683 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @06:29AM (#823247) Homepage
    If languages were operating systems, English would be Microsoft Windows. It is easy to learn for a beginner, but once you have learned the basics, learning a proficient use takes ages. It has a primitive grammar masked by tons of specific and regionalized idioms and an ortography consisting of exceptions. Everything is pronounced differently than it is spelled. If I was choosing a lingua franca, I would rather choose Finnish. At least, Finnish is a funny language. Like, it sounds funny.

    No, I am not trolling here. English is a beautiful language, and it's richness and coherence make, for example, the English poetry and literature so beautiful. English has also a fairly nice sound (as opposed to German). But it's learning curve is Windows. If you think, English is suitable for scientist (for example), then listen to some scientific jargon and see how hard it is to understand -- in English. Listen to a seminar in English and then in French, both done by two non-native speakers, preferably with a strong accent. I do not speak Esperanto, but if I had to choose, there would be a common artificial language.

    Best regards,


  • Here I sit in front of my Taiwanese wife computer with Windows Millenium in Chinese (strangely, Millenium is already widely available in Asia) with a small chinese written recognition pad (available for less then a 100$CAN) sitting just next to my keyboard.

    The program that handles the recognition for that pad is VERY advanced and works very well (I know, since I'm learning chinese and it can recognize my butched characters).

    For example, this is my name in chinese (written using the above mentionned pad):


    The chinese characters display quite well on MY computer (at least in preview mode...) and that's whats important. My understanding is that they are encoded in UTF-8 too. Is Japanese display tech inferior? ;-)

    Don't underestimate the technology available to chinese (particularly the technology produced in Taiwan where your MONITOR and MOTHERBOARD were probably manufactured) in their native tongue.

    And yes, there's a LOTS of chinese dialect (apart from mandarin, my wife speaks cantonese and taiwanese) BUT everyone learns mandarin now so it should be quite widespread by the next generation of chinese. Plus, who cares how you talk it: the written language itself is standardized and that's what's important.
  • I roomed with someone a few years back who was born and raised in India. I asked him what languages he spoke, and he responded "English mainly, but I know French...Everyone I know in India, except for some poor or old people, use English primarily".

    A little in to the conversation, he told me how he knew a couple words in an older dialect so that he could talk to his grandfather -- but not enough to be really useful.

    To drive this point home: I'm an English major. His spoken English was superior to mine.

  • Therefore I think it is only fair that we have some degree of control over which language is the standard for the Internet.

    And since the world wide web was invented at CERN, I think it's appropiate that every single web page is written in English, French, German, Italian and whatever those dialects they speak in Switzerland are called. Sounds stupid, no?

  • ROTFL. To continue the OS metapher, what you say is what some Windows user might have said about Linux a couple of years ago. "Noone usese Linux", "Everybody uses Windows" "You need Windows to communicate". Esperanto doesn't have the qualities that made Linux spread, I agree. However, that doesn't mean that some other artificial language coming from nowhere won't succeed.



  • I don't really see the point of encoding everything in ASCII (UTF-5) rather than using actual (UTF-8 encoded) 8-bit data in domain names: RFC1035 (Domain Names - Implementation and Specification) explicitely states (see section 2.3.3) that implementations should preserve all binary data verbatim. We don't need any new standards: the standards are already there.

  • by fluxrad ( 125130 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @03:24AM (#823273) Homepage
    English is going to become the dominant language, as it is right now for several very simple reasons.

    A)Right now the U.S. is basically the controller of the internet. If the US were to drop off the face of the earth, it would be one hell of a long time before the rest of the world got back to the point where they are today. This may irritate some people, but it's factual. Being that the U.S. basically controls the internet (or at least a very great majority of it's connectivity) - its people get to speak with a pretty loud voice when decisions are made.

    B)Newcomers to the game have to play by the rules that have already been established. Perhaps because of ethocentrism, or just plain stubbornness, i don't see anyone in the near future getting up and shouting "hey, why don't we create a standard language for the web - let's make it Mandarin, or how about Spanish."

    Yes, there are, and always will be, culturally specific domains out there. I have no beef with this. But to hypothesize that the internet is going to go in direction x just because there are more people in china is ludicrous. If we follow that logic, then China should be the internet leader, the wealthiest country on the face of the earth, and all web sites would be made in either Mandarin or Cantonese.

    Actually, if the world (not just the internet) doesn't eventually evolve into a singular language's pretty obvious that things will continue just as they have for centuries: billions of people speaking hundreds of different languages.

    After 16 years, MTV has finally completed its deevolution into the shiny things network
  • The fundamental problem with Esperanto as a universal language is that I am more likely to meet a Norwegian in Mexico than an Esperanto-speaker. It is thus a useless language, in that I am rather unlikely to actually use it, as opposed to toy with it. This is not a bad thing; I write my poetry in Tengwar, partly to keep anyone from reading it (it's pretty awful and doesn't scan at all well), partly because it's pretty and partly for fun. There is nothing wrong with a toy language. And perhaps tomorrow everyone will be speaking Esperanto, and it will be useful. But not today.

    The usefulness of a lingua franca is a function of two factors. The first factor is how much that language has spread. Mandarin loses on this point; it is concentrated extremely heavily in one region, and slightly dispersed elsewhere. On a map it would be one giant blotch with little splats everywhere else. The second factor is the number of speakers. Esperanto loses here; it is widely dispersed, but too widely dispersed. On a map it would be an invisible layer.

    An ideal lingua franca should be both wide-spread and common. On a map it would look like a uniform greyness. But there's one more thing to consider: this map is a weighted map. The language of the plebians is not as important (in this context) as the language of the patricians. So we must weight this map by the importance of the individual speaker. Remarkably, English in this era, like French in another, Imperial Chinese in another, Latin in another and Greek in yet another, is in this position at the moment. The educated classes of the world speak it. In fact, one could argue that to be an educated non-native speaker of English is to have learned it.

    The fact is that the majority of the speakers of Chinese and Hindi are lower-class on the global scale. The same holds, to a somewhat lesser extent, for Spanish. The cultured classes will not give up their lingua franca for a new one spoken by the poor. And they will definitely not trade it for one spoken by no-one.

    English is the language of the global culture. It is the language of science. It is the language of art. It is the language of diplomacy (well, French still persists a tad, as Latin does in law). It is even displacing native tongues; I work with two native Indians, both who have spent almost their entire lives in India. They speak little more than pidgin Hindi, but near-perfect English.

    Of course, English will one day go the way of every other language. Many learn French still. Latin is studied by another bunch--generally a bit weird (I say this having taken years of it; anyone who has taken Latin can understand my meaning, I think--we're a strange fraternity). Greek is barely known nowadays, outside church, archaeological and linguistic circles (and I say this having gone to Greek Orthodox church most all of my life). English too will fade. Some day it will be a language of study, then of curiosity. And, I imagine, one day it will be forgotten. But that day is far off, and is not now.

    Esperanto has some neat features. But it will IMHO never be a common tongue.

  • I don't think English is widespread because it is the language of the (current) World Empire, though that is certainly a factor. It is widespread because it can be learned really badly and still be understandable.

    Others have commented that english is terrible because its pronunciation, grammar, etc are not logical. That's true, but because of that we have adapted to people using them incorrectly. A native Hindi speaker can learn a little English and when in doubt use Hindi grammar and people will understand him. Likewise he can learn the basic rules of pronunciation (the ones with all the exeptions) use them and pronounce it like Hine when in doubt. He will have a funny accent but will be understood.

    Turn that picture around. If a native english speaker learns/speaks hindi as poorly as the stereotypical 7-11 employee and the result isn't a funny accent - it's completely incomprehensible.
    Ditto for Mandarin.

    Spanish is actually a good second place (particularly Mexican spanish) as a language that you can mangle and still be understood. It also has the advantage (in this context) of having a smaller number of confusing synonyms. But, well the are not the language of the current world empire, so english incorporates a lot of words into spanglish creoles rather than using a base of proper castillian spanish.

  • English spelling is so irregular that I'm not sure its fundamental phonetic-ness is good for much. There are something like 13 ways to pronounce "gh", for example. Even the vowels can be pronounced 2 or 3 different ways. So, non-english speakers can pronounce words without knowing them, but usually completely incorrectly.

    I live in Quebec so I see a lot of this. The other day, my chemistry prof was explaining how to search for the element lead in our english reference book and pronounced it "lead" as in "leader". And how are we supposed to know that the "na" in "nation" is not pronounced the same way in "national"? etc.

    I don't know any korean, but I do know the japanese kana system is much more readable in this respect.

    Also, Chinese pictograms are more detailed than letters, so they have to be displayed in a larger font. This partially cancels out the space savings. Also, I would guess that they take longer to write on paper, and _much_ longer to type, since you would have to select them from a menu or something.

  • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @03:30AM (#823313) Homepage
    I understand that a minority of the people on the planet speak English. I also understand that some of the world's most powerful militaries and richest economies currently speak English.

    But, one thing hasn't been mentioned: English-speakers invented the technology. C, Unix, Windows, Perl, Python, HTML, etc. are all written "in english" -- that is, they use english words as their lexical basis. Until there is an All-Mandarin programming language, OS, etc. that takes the world by storm, I don't expect computers to be programmed "in mandarin." I imagine it is simply easier to cope with computer programming if you understand at least a little English. It doesn't have to stay this way, but I imagine it will be easier to move everything to another western language than to a non-Western one, for reasons of keyboards and alphabets.

    ---- ----
  • by Nit Picker ( 9292 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @03:31AM (#823319)
    Or Hindi?
  • >Why aren't there translators built right in to
    >modern programming languages, so that I can write
    >it in English, but if you are a Mandarin speaker
    >and want to read my code you simply have to hit a
    >button (or whatever) and it translates the
    >results into the Mandarin version.


    Can you even IMAGINE the size of the character set for something like that? Chineese has thousands upon thousands of characters you'd need to include. But you wouldn't just need to be able to display them, and represent them in memory, you'd need to be able to TYPE them.

    Imagine the keyboards. You'd need either a HUGE keyboard that encircles most of your body, or you'd have to go back to the MIT style keyboard... three shift keys with different functions, and any combination of four meta keys on top of that.

    Add to this the necessity to display the characters. You need either insanely high resolution on your monitor, or to increase the size of each character beyond convinence.

    Now, a phonetic language, like Japanese is much more convinent, even though it DOES have many more than English's 26 letters. In fact, Jappanese, heberw, greek, arabic (I think), and cryllic have all made it into unicode. But even WITH unicode, you need to go through some contortions with a standard keyboard to get the proper characters.

    English, on the other hand, is perfectly happy with only a single byte for the entire character set, and then some. And try as some people might to eradicate ASCII, it shows no sign of going away anytime soon. Plus, with even a paltry 640x480 resolution display, you can still get 80 collums of LEGIABLE characters, a feat not possible in Chinese or even Jappanese.

    So I would predict that it's unwise to bet on english giong away anytime soon.

    Resistance is NOT futile!!!

    I am not a drone.
    Remove the collective if

  • typing Chinese isn't that hard---- if you have some sort of input program you can type in pinyin, which is the method that pretty much everyone I know uses

    Not true, on a recent trip to china (last month) I asked several people about how they type mandarin using a QWERTY keyboard. I'm not sure what it's called but it basically let every key represent some basic mandarin symbol and a combonation of these symbols are used to represent a word. It looked a bit complicated but it's not that hard to learn. I also asked them whether they use pinyin as their method of input and most of them replied that pinyin is simply too slow compared to their other typing method.

    Seeking; proceeding by inquiry.

    A specious but fallacious argument; a sophism.
  • English has a whole lot of faults as a language. Face facts, remembering all of the bizarre grammatical constructions would be tedious if you hadn't been hearing them your whole life. Chinese has a whole lot of faults as a language. The simplified tense system leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation.

    Both languages have a whole lot of faults when you look at their literacy English, you've got the advantage of phonemes, as in, anyone who can read the alphabet can pronounce a word, even if he/she has no idea what it means. You can read a newspaper out loud while clueless about what ithe words mean (this is true of a lot of languages with phonetic script...hebrew, arabic, greek, cyrillic just for starters). The problem with this is that words with many syllables are well...LONG. Chinese is not phonetic. There are certain root characters that hint at the pronunciation of a pictogram, but other than that, the only way to recognize a word is to have it memorized. There are two advantages of a pictographic language: first, the word on paper is a definition unto itself. If the root component of a pictograph means "mouth", then you can be fairly sure the whole word is related to speaking, eating, dentistry, etc. Second, the overall size of script falls dramatically. This entire comment could be written in Chinese characters in far less space...while disk space would probably be the same if not larger, the reading time for a passage is usually shorter in Chinese.

    Is there a common ground? Is there a script in the world that combines the phonetic advantages of an alphabetic system with the reading speed and pictographic nature of Chinese? Sure, it's Korean...not a lot of people know this, but those odd, curvy characters are both pictorial AND phonetic. With a few minutes of work, you can learn to read Korean newspapers or street signs out loud, having NO idea what any of it means. Some mathematicians have decided that the Korean script is the most perfect writing system ever devised (invented by one man apparently, but don't take this at face value. Some Korean schoolbooks claim that a Kim or a Song invented the car and telephone, too)...too bad the majority of the world speaks Chinese or English or both (like me), and has no idea how to speak Korean (also like me).

    This should appeal to all you Slashdotters out there who are part of a minority of computer users with a superior OS, one who's usefulness is crippled by the fact that no one else can understand it.

  • Linux has the advantage of being largely compatible with Windows--they speak the same language (TCP/IP) and can do many of the same things. Don't forget that Linux os Just Another Unix. I enjoy using it--I am posting from my Linux box and primary machine--but let us remember that Linux is not the best of the Unices.

    Esperanto is an entirely new language, vaguely related to the Romance languages. It does not have an established group of people ready & able to take advantage of it. And let's not forget that languages are a tad more important to us than computing platforms.'

    I am fairly certain that Esperanto will never amount to much. It's possible that it will, but it's not bloody likely.

  • The last line doesn't take into account the structure of the internet. The issue of what language is the standard in the digital world has more to do with how many internet sites are created in that country/language, not how many people in the world speak it. The United States has been a pioneer in the digital world and on the internet and that is why it is most likely moving towards english as a standard. If it is moving in any direction at all....
  • How many of these Mandrin, Spanish, and Hindi speakers also speak English? How many of them view their language as an impediment in their business?

    English is the default language of the business world.
  • There was an article about the I-DNS [] method in several publications last week. Apparently the power-that-be (internic etc.) are considering adopting this standard. The idea is to use the usual 7 or 8 bit domain format, but lay unicode on top of it using a UTF-5 encoding. This encoding represents unicode characters using ascii [0-9A-Z], so will map to an 8 bit string like in the DNS database.

    This looks like a good idea, but it requires some work on the client end to generate UTF-5 lookup requests, and display urls correctly. I'm not sure what an anchor tag will look like in this system, i.e. whether the domain should be in the page's native encoding, or utf-5.

    In any case. with a little bit of hex arithmetic (see the site for info) you can now domain squat in dozens of languages.

  • There's one decent (even if Euro-centric) reason English will stay top dog, and one excellent reason.

    Decent reason: the nations that have developed the Iinternet and are still developing it speak English (mostly).

    Excellent reason: Mr. and Mrs. Yahoo Pushbutton can't buy a Hindi, Mandarin, or Spanish keyboard from Future Shop, Circuit City, Dell, HP, Micro$oft, etc., etc. QWERTY (and thereby English) wins by sheer numbers. (And yes, other languages can be done on a QWERTY keyboard, but do YOU really want to learn extended character sets?)

  • I just wanted to chime in and say that I agree with the responders to your post. You are clearly on narcotics.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • by Spasemunki ( 63473 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @03:56AM (#823358) Homepage
    correct me if i'm wrong, but i haven't seen a standard system for writing inflexions with text.

    You're half right and half wrong. There are several standard systems for transcribing tonal languages. The most common ones for Chinese are the Wade-Giles system and the Pinyin system. Similar schemes exist for Vietnamese, Thai, and just about any other language that doesn't use the Latin alphabet. However, each langauge has its own transliteration system, and some languages vary significantly. Two books on teaching Thai may use completely different punctuation to express the same tone. Hence the importance of learning the actual alphabet. A lot of translation systems are outdated, weird, or just bloody minded. Both Chinese transliteration systems seem to go miles out of their way to be counter-intuitive, representing Engligh d sounds with t and English t sounds with d.

    As for ASCII limitations, any transliteration system can be put into ASCII, from Chinese to Pali. And Unicode makes it possible to put a lot of non-ASCII characters into a standard representation. I'm not sure what the current system for representing Chinese is- I was pretty sure that there were some systems based on a reduced character set, but don't recall much else.

    "Sweet creeping zombie Jesus!"

  • But what everyone is overlooking is this:

    If the US segregated itself completely from the internet, those intra-continental connections would re-route elsewhere.
    If DC handles hafl the traffic, could that be because half that traffic is generated in the US? Most likely.

    IF you took the sum-total of all international traffic not destined or originating within the US, you would find that much of it does not go through the us; if it does, it's simply because it's economical to do so.

    Were the US to cut the world off, links would spring up *FAST*.
  • Guess what? They all speak English.

    ---- ----
  • Yes, this is a conflict of standards, because the quoted section of the RFC (or its later revision, RFC2616, page 26) says

    Data in character sets other than "ISO-8859-1" or its subsets MUST be labeled with an appropriate charset value.

    (Thus the HTML spec, strictly speaking, is in error: the HTTP protocol doesn't "mention" ISO-8859-1, and it's default use isn't a "recommendation" - it's a MUST. But it is certainly right in calling it "useless".)

    IMHO the correct way to proceed is for HTML authors to use a meta http-equiv tag to specify the character set. Of course, an even better solution is to use XHTML, since the encoding is specified in the XML declaration; and the XML specification is clear on the subject:

    In the absence of information provided by an external transport protocol (e.g. HTTP or MIME), it is an
    error [...] for an entity which begins with neither a Byte Order Mark nor an encoding declaration to use an encoding other than UTF-8.

    Even better: write XHTML, use an XML character set declaration and add a meta http-equiv tag just to make sure...

    ...and just use ASCII :-)

  • This, to me, is one of the most interesting questions about the direction of the Internet right now.

    If we continue to see progress with tools like Babelfish and Babylon, the question may be moot, which would be a very interesting outcome indeed. (I wonder: if these tools become good enough that large numbers of people start using them for everyday media consumption, will major media portals dumb down their writing so the automatic translators can parse it better?)

    Mandarin will not be a contender until the Chinese government gets less jittery about free expression. Who wants to create content you can get arrested for?

    Hindi could be significant if Internet penetration in India makes real strides. There are several efforts being made in this area. But for the time being the Indians with enough money for access almost all speak English anyway.

    Spanish could make a real challenge to English hegemony on the Internet and we're seeing more of this already.

    Someone else made the astute comment that ASCII kind of screws non-Western languages in this department. The support for non-Western character sets in a lot of software in non-existent to poor. We're seeing more and more Middle East-based Internet portals now, but most at least default to English and some don't even offer Arabic. The software solutions for Arabic are varied and don't all play well together. A few months ago PC World/Egypt shipped with a CD from a vendor trying to get their Arabic browsing solution better exposure. Until that battle is settled 180 times around the world, Western languages will have an unfair advantage.


  • Tv shows that are broadcast to >200 countries and cause the rivetting attention of the audience lead to the dominance of the english language as to often, there are no equivalent words in the dubbed language and the english word or phrase is used. Net result--english speach begins to permeate the language and culture of the viewing country with little discrimination by wealth as most people have access to TV's but not internet connections.

  • [Re: numerical estimates of English-speakers]
    My guess is that whoever gives the 470M figure has a very liberal definition of what "English" is, and includes speakers of English-based creoles.

    Including, for example, Jeff K. []?

  • Yet, if I go to a Danish site, I'm not suprised to find an english version. In fact, I followed your link, and yup, it's in english. And so is [] (mostly). [] is in Danish, but there's a convenient little british flag to click on to, um, fix the problem. Just food for thought....

    Personally, I'm pretty happy about this, as arrogant and lazy as that seems. I wouldn't mind learning one or maybe even two other languages, but eight hundred or so just isn't going to happen. It's extremely convenient to me that a large chunk of the web has standardized on English.

    It's good for local web sites to be in the local language. It's also a good thing to have a standard language. It wouldn't have to be English, but Mandarin is entirely beyond what my brain is equiped to learn.


  • During my childhood, I have learned three foreign languages (Latin, English, and Classic Greek, in that order; German being my native language), and I've made (pretty lame, I must admit) attempts at French, Italian and Russian. English was by far easiest to learn. Period.

    Guess what: Learning Dutch might even be easier for you. :) Given the fact that both English and German belong to the family of Germanic languages, this is not at all surprising.

    However, you may be able to imagine that, say, a Chinese native speaker will not profit from the fact that English and German are (grammatically and lexically) so close to each other that they would be regarded as dialects using the same standards that people apply when calling Mandarin and Szechuan "Chinese".

    Apart from that, English is a horrible language to learn as a second language. Spelling is nowhere near being phontetic grammatical stuff like articles is simply unnecessary. The reasons why English became the current "world language" have nothing to do with it being "easy". It's the economic and political power of the US, nothing more.

  • I wonder about English being the language spoken by the most people including those that speak it not as their primary, but second language, third and so forth. How many people the world-over "know" English, although it is not their primary language?

    Also, one would think that English is spoken over a broader area geographically than other languages (not sure about this, anyone know for certain.)
  • Here is something to ponder...

    The original message states that English speaking peoples of the world are a minority behind Mandrin speaking peoples, and Hindi is a close third. Well guess what... In India (Where Hindi is spoken!) The universal language of trade, in all provinces is you guessed it, ENGLISH.

    Look it up, but even the Hindi speakers of the world realize that the language of global business is always the language of the man with the $$$.

    The U.S. is the most powerful nation in the world, with the strongest economy(Thus the man with the $$$). Population base means nothing by comparison.

    How many of those Mandrin people do you think are still living in huts, with no electricity or running water? A far greater proportion I would wager than that in the United States, Canada, The U.K. or any of the other English speaking nations of the world.

  • I've read a couple of sources on languages that claim that English is the most descriptive language and also have the largest vocabulary while having the simplest syntax and one of the easier phonetic sets. Has anyone else heard this? No flames, this is a serious question. I think it would make sense that the more powerful language would become the dominant technology language. If think that given English's prowress in the Internet community, it'd be like claiming COBOL was better than C++ just because there's more of it out there (at one point, not now obviously).

    Also, I think it's unfair to pick on Americans for not learning another language. The VAST majority of Americans have no need to learn another language. In Europe you've got a bunch of smaller countires each with their own language. So to be German, you have to learn at least French and English to even do business in Europe. In America, everyone speaks English and our largest neighbor (Canada) speaks English also (sorry Quebec you're not a country). Mexico is coming along there was Spanish, but most of the business people in Mexico speak English . Why? Becuase to do business with NAFTA you have to speak English. I know many people from college who were excellent at multiple languages. I had one friend who probably spoke French better than many native French speakers. But the point is most Americans have no cultural need for a second language due to geographic size and location but many Europeans (And other countries) do. I don't know one person I've ever met in my professional career that English wasn't their primary language OR spoke it excellently. If I had to interact with a huge amount of Germans or Russians, you'd better believe I'd be learning those languages quick, if for not other reason than a good business practice. I'd like to find out how many Mandarin speakers know a second language given China is such a geographically large area. I'll bet it's only a small percentage.
  • You may be right of course, but I still think that the "web-english" that we use to communicate on the web will become something separate from british/american english. This is a language used for intercommunication between two non-native speakers. Therefore the grammar will be simplified (no CmdrTaco reference, please) and the vocabualry even more mixed up with other languages then today.
  • It's easier in a sense (not having to pronounce stuff) but more difficult in another -- all of one's mistakes look really glaring in writing, whereas in conversation, one can usually get away with it -- and perhaps learn more, if the person one is talking with interjects little corrections. On the 'net, of course, what happens is little flamewars about grammar.


  • Very low, only a tiny portion of china has internet access. Most people in south america don't have getting online as a priority. The people that do get online are of the upperclass, meaning that they probably had education and maybe even learned english.

    That doesn't mean that there's no room for more than one language. Take dutch for instance (disclaimer: I'm dutch), compared to english or mandarin, it's a tiny language. Yet there's plenty of content in dutch. It coexists peacefully with content in english, french, german, swedish, ....... etc.

    Only americans and people in third world countries are limited to one language. Arguably, this is no problem for americans since their economic power causes others to adopt english as a second language.

  • by Jon Peterson ( 1443 ) <> on Monday August 28, 2000 @04:09AM (#823431) Homepage
    There is no problem. ASCII is an outdated, obsolete standard. It is unsuitable for modern requirements. Get rid of it. All of it. It sucks. The only reason it's still here is because U.S. Unix geeks can't be arsed to learn something new and better.

    Everything should be in Unicode. EVERYTHING. Filenames, partition names, variable names in code, EVERYTHING. DNS should support Unicode, SMTP, HTTP, FTP all these protocols should support any text being unicode. Microsoft understands this, Unix doesn't.

  • Now moderators, I dare you to say this is Offtopic. Even more, I dare you to get the modaration right for once...

    Skit också, jag fick just modereringspoäng, men jag har redan skrivit flera inlägg i den här diskussionen. Jag skulle nog varit frestad att åtminstone ge dig en "+1 roligt".

  • by ajv ( 4061 ) on Monday August 28, 2000 @04:13AM (#823438) Homepage
    I've read all the >2 posts and I think most of you are missing the point. The problem is not that James Murdoch saying that Mandarin usage is going to take over the net, but simply that most programs, OS's and web front ends simply cannot handle most non-English languages very well.

    Try this as an exercise. Insert some Japanese or double byte language into your favorite web site, such as slashdot. It wont work. The text at the bottom of my post says "Sayonara". Not hard, and I'm even using an encoding that fits in UTF-8. But I bet myself $0.05 that it will not show up correctly and may even stuff the rest of the posts. I managed to mangle the linux-kernel mail list archives at Bring on language DoS!

    Now, you probably can't read Japanese, but why should code break because I don't use an ASCII encoding?


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