Monday, January 21, 2008

The language of the internet

I access the World Wide Web in English, which is hardly surprising as that is my mother tongue. However I had thought about it, and I had assumed that because there are so many other languages out there, many with a number of adherents vastly outnumbering the English-speakers, that they would have a significant internet presence as well.

I researched that a bit, and found that my perceptions were wrong. Global Reach, a marketing entity, says that over 68% of web/internet content is in English. German and Japanese content is less than 6% each, and French, even worse, half the German content at 3%. Spanish 2.4%.

So whereas I thought (because you do run across websites in other languages quite often) there would be a thriving, Spanish, German, or French internet presence, that apparently is not the case. It seems that my blogger friends Peter and C... (er pumuckl) are very representative in that to participate in the Global Village, they do so in English, even though, as Swiss, their mother tongue is Swiss-German (one of 4 Swiss languages - which suggests other questions re language and identity - assuming that language is a large factor in self-view). I'm glad they did so choose though, as interacting with them and others can only open your mind and broaden your world-view. We, today, can be armchair travellers like no other time has had the opportunity to do so ever before. A revolution only just beginning, the effects of which are as yet merely glimpsed.

Like many Aussies, at high school I did a little German, a little French, and a little Latin. But I've never had to use them other than as a sideline interest. I worked with some French on a project for a while, but they spoke English. As Engineers and Technicians, much if not most of their data sheets, references and textbooks were in English, so they had little other choice.

So it seems that English is the default standard not only in aviation, but in the sciences, and for the internet - the Global Village as well. One wonders where it will lead, you could feel sorry for the French in particular - they may have to learn how to make the 'th' sound after all.

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Blogger Worldman said...

I have some more percentages for you. My daily use of languages since 40 years. English 40 %, French 40 %, Swiss German 8 %, High German 2 %, various African or Eastern Europe languages 10 %. And I must say that I have become a poor speaker of German. I consider myself bilingual, englisch and french. And with both of them a huge part of the world is open to me. I have the intention to learn Spanish also.

When I started blogging, I did not even think about language. I simply set up my blog and started to write. In English. The Global Language for the Global Village.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008 1:42:00 pm  
Anonymous Phil said...

Thanks Peter.

I must apologize for an assumption. I had thought your Canton was German-speaking. Seems it's French?

We Anglospherians are often effectively mono-lingual. Which is a bit sad. Europe is so very different in this regard and many thers fron the English speaking lands.

BTW, I have heard Swiss tend to identify with their Canton or language bloc as much as with their country. Is that so?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008 8:33:00 pm  
Blogger pumuckl said...

I am from Basel. I am used to saying I am Swiss, especially in the environment I am working, but actually I do feel more like being from Basel, and then from Europe. However, not Europe in the EU political sense. More culturally speaking.

Swiss in general do identify themselves very much with the canton they come from, and then usually with the region where their mother tongue is spoken.

we are much more proud of being Swiss in the meanwhile - it took us some time to realise that we live diversity every day and can be proud of it.

however, looking at latest development in Switzerland, the pride seems to make us Europes "heart of darkness" ;-)

anyway. english is almost my mother tongue. I was part of a students association - an international one (AIESEC) - but whenever we had a meeting in Basel with someone who would not speak german, we'd switch to English. Not another national language. English.

hugs from NY (guess that comment is getting long enough anyway!!)

Thursday, January 24, 2008 8:47:00 am  

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