This hypothesis is supported by my observation of 1) the number of new websites published in Arabic by newspapers, social movements, and government entities, and 2) the number of social media users who are now writing in Arabic.
SUPPORTING NUMBERS This hypothesis is supported by the results of the second issue of the Arab Social Media Report, released in May 2011. If we compare the interface language to the language used by Egyptians and Tunisians to communicate during the civil movement of the first quarter of 2011, we see a huge difference. Below is the language distribution 13 :
Country arabic English French ( % of FB users) ( % of FB users) ( % of FB users) Egypt 49.88 48.98 0.Tunisia 1.56 2.72 94.However, when questioned 14 about the primary language used to communicate on Facebook during the civil uprisings, respondents answered as per below :
Country arabic English French ( % of FB users) ( % of FB users) ( % of FB users) Egypt 75.40 25.60 Tunisia 51.43 0.95 47.In the assessment of this researcher, the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia are behind the increasing disparity between interface language and the language of communication.
13 Arab Social Media Report, Issue 2, May 2011, http://www.dsg.ae/portals/0/ASMR2.pdf page 14.
14 Arab Social Media Report, Issue 2, May 2011, http://www.dsg.ae/portals/0/ASMR2.pdf page 7.
Adel El Zaim As an empirical way to test this hypothesis, I set out to examine the tweets for #CairoExplosion on July 6, 2011. Cairo and suburbs residents heard on Wednesday the 6th of July a big explosion whose origin remained unknown for hours. Rapidly, a hashtag was created on Twitter and users start sending messages asking or guessing or retweeting what they heard.
In less than an hour, that hashtag generated enough attention to precipitate a certain level of panic among Egyptian Twitter users. I randomly copied 500 tweets with the hashtag #CairoExplosion, all sent within approximately two hours of one another, and classified them in terms of language to obtain the following distribution :
arabic arabic in latin English Mixed Not Total characters determined 353 33 89 19 6 (smileys) Despite the obvious interest of those numbers, the observation is limited and needs to be systematically examined and validated. Certain initiatives like R-Shief 15 aim, among other things, to mine and visualise Twitter content and the public sphere of Facebook to study the language distribution and uses.
Increasing the content quantity doesn’t necessarily mean enhancing its quality, however. Tweets are limited to short messages and microblogs.
Social media content is characterised by its informal style, although it certainly makes important contributions to more institutional pages and networks, which together with the presence of government entities and organizations lend it more formal status. A huge number of international organizations, including the United Nations Development Program (undp), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (ifad) and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (idrc) maintain Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, contributing to enhancing the style and credibility of these tools. And since Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, almost all candidates of the developed and developing world use social media to try to reach voters, or at least the Facebookers among their potential voters.
15 http://www.r-shief.org Adel El Zaim CONCLUSION There are clear signals that around the world, social uprisings and unrest are making social media one of the preferred tools of communication, mobilisation, demonstration and voicing the concerns of the population.
mena countries are showing a serious increase in the number of social media users. These users are mainly communicating in their mother tongue, regardless of interface language preference. More research is needed to better document this phenomenon and build on the present research, to enhance its content quality, but more importantly to contribute to the quality of citizens participation via cyberspace, and to bring about increased benefits from the knowledge society.
Adel El Zaim Adel El Zaim ADAMA SAMASSKOU MULTILINGUALISM, THE MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS, AND CYBERSPACE The “Millennium Development Goals” (MDGs) set by the United Nations in 2000 must be evaluated at a world summit in 2013. How can the use of languages in technology be a decisive help for their realisation How can public language policies, local or multilateral, participate in achieving these shared goals ADAMA SAMASSKOU is the President of the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences (CIPSH) and the President of MAAYA, the World Network for Linguistic Diversity. Former Executive Secretary of the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN), a specialized Institution of the African Union based in Bamako (Mali), he served as the President of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) of the World Summit on the Information Society for the Geneva phase (WSIS/2002-2003).
Previously, he was Malian Minister of Basic Education, initiator of the Rebuilding of the Educational System (1993-2000) and Spokesperson for the Government of Mali (1997-2000). Member of the Haut Conseil de la Francophonie from 2003 to 2006, he is today member of the ITU and Unesco International Broadband Commission for Digital Development.
n speaking of multilingualism, we often think of linguistic performance – the methods people have for communicating ; and how they Irecord, confront and share their cultures. Linking the language question to the so-called “development” question may appear irrelevant – the relationship may appear so natural and commonsensical that it needs no further highlighting ! In many countries, however, this link is complicated by history and the long-term effects of colonization, to the point that the relationship between language and development is distorted or even denied. It then becomes a crucial topic for examination. As we enter into a new society under rapid construction, a society of shared knowledge and information, it is worth pausing to analyse multilingualism’s contribution to the Millennium Development Goals (mdgs). Cyberspace plays a major role in global re-organization and community projects, and the orientations of multilateral organizations have a major impact on online relationships. Multilingualism is no exception to this focus of the global future on communication technologies and information.
ELIMINATING POVERTY The eight Millennium Development Goals (mdgs) were adopted at the Millennium Summit held on 6-8 September 2000, at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
“Eradicating extreme poverty continues to be one of the main challenges of our time, and is a major concern of the international community. [...]The Millennium Development Goals set timebound targets, by which progress in reducing income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter and exclusion—while promoting gender equality, health, education and environmental sustainability. [...] The Goals are Adama Samasskou ambitious but feasible and, together with the comprehensive United Nations development agenda, set the course for the world’s efforts to alleviate extreme poverty by 2015 1.
The eight goals aiming to significantly improve living conditions by include the following : 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger ; 2. Achieve universal primary education ; 3. Promote gender equality and empower women ; 4. Reduce child mortality rates ; 5. Improve maternal health ;
6. Combat hiv/aids, malaria, and other diseases ; 7. Ensure environmental sustainability ; and 8. Develop a global partnership for development.
As the year 2015 approaches, we can easily see that these goals are still works in progress, even if some of them have undergone significant improvements. In this light, the recent initiative of the International Telecommunications Union (itu) and Unesco is worth noting : they have partnered to establish the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, to help accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals 2. Global development is propelling the integration of the mdgs with the un Conference on Sustainable Development, to be held in Rio in June 2012. Environmental issues, sustainable development, interstate equilibrium, and planetary protection in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss, will be placed next to the goal of eradicating poverty, a goal approved by all countries in 2000. While the link to greening the economy may seem obvious, approaching it through cultural expansion and knowledge sharing remains too little understood.
Development is a complex concept, referring to history and to the global inequalities it has left us. The analysis presented in this article concerns only some of the world’s countries – those for whom the international community identified the Millennium Development Goals, to be achieved by 2015.
For the sake of a better understanding, I have chosen to focus on Africa, where the problematic of the relationship between multilingualism, the mdgs and cyberspace is most urgent and thus most relevant. This strategy allows my argument to insist upon the linguistic dimension of the mdgs and the means of achieving them.
1 Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Committing to action : achieving the Millennium Development Goals, 25 July 2008.
http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2008highlevel/pdf/commiting.pdf 2 http://www.broadbandcommission.org Adama Samasskou It is important to emphasize the specificity of the language question in formerly colonized countries in general, and in Africa in specific, a question marked by the continuing search for identity, a quest with well-known origins.
The Cultural Charter for Africa, adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity (oau) upon meeting for their Thirteenth Ordinary Session in Port Louis (Mauritius), on 2-July 1976, reminds us that “under colonial domination, the African countries found themselves in the same political, economic, social and cultural situation ; that cultural domination led to the depersonalisation of part of the African peoples, falsified their history, systematically disparaged and combated African values, and tried to replace progressively and officially, their languages by that of the colonizer, that colonization has encouraged the formation of an elite which is too often alienated from its culture and susceptible to assimilation and that a serious gap has been opened between the said elite and the African popular masses” 3.
Proper management of the situation requires these countries to pursue a social project based on endogenous development, that guarantees cultural and linguistic diversity, which in turn ensures that all cultures and languages can find expression and put themselves forward. This will be truly possible only when African languages can truly be presented as working tools in all domains of public life, in partnership with the official languages inherited from colonization, and in all means of expression, communication and dissemination.
Hence the need and urgency to develop an African perspective on language planning. We know that “language planning” consists of using policy and technical measures to preserve or promote linguistic equilibrium in an area where several languages are spoken, in order to better serve the social project.
The adoption by these formerly colonized countries of an explicit language policy reflecting the social project is a necessary element of this methodology.
3 Cultural Charter for Africa. http://www.au.int/en/sites/default/files/CULTURAL_ CHARTER_AFRICA.pdf Adama Samasskou MULTILINGUALISM, A LIVED REALITY IN COUNTRIES COVERED BY THE MDGS During the early years of African independences, culture guided and illuminated political choices, because it was seen as the basis for and the purpose of any social or economic development process. Today, however, it is undeniably the case that exogenous development programs increasingly – unfortunately – are the primary actors advancing projects to promote cultural values. As development projects cannot feasibly be designed outside the cultural context of those for whom they are intended, I feel it is urgent to reverse this trend.
However, in the vast majority of the states concerned, there is an unavoidable paradox impeding this reversal : we are dealing with multilingual countries that, as heirs of colonialism, already have a choice practically imposed on them in the form of the nation-state phenomenon, a construction privileging the monolingual perspective.
Because of this, in order to avoid pursuing a program that goes against these countries’ realities, I advocate implementing a strategic approach that I call user-friendly functional multilingualism, which I define as “a strategic approach to managing African linguistic pluralism, taking into account both the principle of linguistic equality and the reality principle of the various functions these languages perform. This approach goes hand in hand with administrative decentralisation and African integration, using a matrix of an identity language, a common language, and a language of international communication. It advocates linguistic usability and advocates the ‘delegation of linguistic sovereignty’ by way of the Subsidiarity Principle between local, regional, national and African levels”.
MULTILINGUALISM, A SINE QUA NON FOR ACHIEVING THE MDGS AND AN INCLUSIVE CYBERSPACE The vast majority of humanity lives in multilingual societies, where multilingualism is the norm. How, then, can we not take the language question and multilingualism into account when working towards the mdgs A transversal issue par excellence, the language question determines Adama Samasskou our ability to achieve each of the eight Millennium Development Goals.
Let us attempt to measure the impact on each of them.
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