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Talk | reboot9

While We Wait For The Babel Fish

There is something in the way the internet is structured that encourages people to stay in monolingual ponds

A basic assumption on the internet is that everybody speaks one language, which may (in some cases) not be English. However, many people speak or understand more than one language. Is the online world dealing with the plurality of languages in a way which is attuned to the way human beings relate to these different languages? In particular, what space is there for those of us who are happy to mix languages?

Language is one of the most significant barriers to communication one can find on the internet.

The internet is anglo-centric, and although localisation is now common practice, the user still remains imprisoned within a single language at a time. As a bilingual human, I want to explore not only "English vs. other languages" issues, but also "one language vs. many".

Lots of people are only really comfortable in one language (their mother-tongue), but many have at least partial knowledge and understanding of other languages. Does the internet recognise this? How does the way language is dealt with on the internet (rooted in programming constraints) clash with the way humans live their languages?

You can read more about the ideas behind this proposal in my blog post about it and the Google Doc in which I'm drafting things out:

- climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/03/18/multilingual-proposals-reboot-blogcamp/
- docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddcrwvm8_16d3fhsz

Related links

Interviewed twice on this topic before reboot: climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/05/26/multilingual-interviews/

My presentation is now available on SlideShare: www.slideshare.net/sbooth/while-we-wait-for-the-babel-fish

Check out my presentation on multilingual blogging in Zürich: climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/03/25/blogcamp-multilingual-blogging-session/ (with video of talk!)

*Update, July 2007:* I gave a modified version of this talk at Google - climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/07/10/talk-languages-on-the-internet-at-google-tomorrow/ - which has been put up on Google video. The content is roughly similar but the angle is different:

video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5004419583730327409

Talk mentioned in blog posts:

- www.uninformation.org/weblog/50/
- www.disambiguity.com/quoteable-quotes-from-reboot-90/
- fourstarters.com/2007/06/10/reboot-language-and-happiness/
- ruk.ca/article/4274
- adactio.com/journal/1299
- www.mulley.net/2007/06/03/a-reboot-review-reboot-90-in-denmark/
- irish.typepad.com/irisheyes/2007/06/reboot9_throwaw.html (did I really say that?!)
- leapfrog.nl/blog/archives/2007/06/01/reboot-90-day-1/
- tor.dk/2007/05/31/blogging-in-many-languages/ (still need to comment on that)
- www.helge.at/2007/05/auf-der-reboot/