National and international, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, all have an important role to play in the promotion of multilingualism in the information society International organizations have played a paramount and avant-garde role in the fight against human afflictions. After XXth century wars, both the League of Nations and the United Nations had as their fundamental mission to prevent conflict by tackling the core issues that could lead to conflicts between states, including poverty, hunger, illiteracy, endemic diseases, economic inequality, crimes against humanity, genocide, and so on. Hence, the United Nations Development Programme (undp) supports States in the fight against poverty ; the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (fao) fights world hunger, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) works against illiteracy and toward the worldwide development of science, education and culture. The World Health Organization (who) and World Trade Organization (wto) respectively seek to curb major endemic diseases and regulate trade. And if the biggest criminals cannot be prosecuted in their own countries, the International Criminal Court (icc) is the last resort for victims seeking justice. All this shows the extent to which multilateral organizations are important in practically every field to work toward universal ethical values by fighting social illness.
It is thus natural that we consider the international organizations whose mission it is to promote the world’s languages and cultures as essential partners in the protection of linguistic diversity, in both the linguasphere and in cyberspace. Just as biodiversity is essential for the development of life on earth, linguistic diversity is essential to human life, for it is through language that every community expresses its culture and identity, and adapts and learns to survive in its environment. Also, in the era of globalisation, with icts spreading to all human communities regardless of their environment, numerous weakened cultures are in serious danger Marcel Diki-Kidiri of extinction, along with the languages that express them and, of course, the identity of those who speak them. This is the existential question posed, for example, by some residents of the Tuvalu archipelago, who are concerned about the threat of flooding that global warming poses to their country. If the archipelago’s hundred thousand inhabitants should be evacuated to various countries like New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Canada, France, England, and others, where they will constitute small minorities destined to dissolve within a few generations in their diverse host societies, what will become the Tuvaluans’ collective identity, ancestral culture, language, and skills This question can just as well be posed by the speakers of the world’s 2,400 endangered languages as listed in Unesco’s Atlas of Endangered Languages. International organizations are the last defence against the attitude of indifference in which 99 % of the world’s languages, spoken by only 6 % of world population, may die.
In a Unesco report from the early 1950s, mother tongue education was considered a fundamental right of the child. Mother tongue internet surfing could very well be its equivalent in the information age. If the internet is to become the global network it promises to be, all users must enjoy access to it, regardless of language. To regard it as the preserve of those who happen to speak English by historical accident, practical necessity, or political privilege is unfair to those who do not know this language.
Launched in January 1999 by the European Commission, the website HLTCentral (“Human Language Technologies”) provides a brief definition of language engineering 5 :
“Language engineering permits us to live comfortably alongside technology. We can use our knowledge of language to develop systems capable of recognizing both spoken and written text, to understand a text in sufficient depth to be able to select information, translate it into different languages, and generate both an oral speech and a printed text. The application of these technologies allows us to push the current limits of our language use. Voice-activated systems are expected to play a leading role and become an integral part of our daily lives”.
5 Information and Quotation from Marie Lebert (1999,updated in 2009) “The Internet and Languages”, reported by Le Net des tudes franaises : http://www.etudes-francaises.net/ entretiens/multi.htm Marcel Diki-Kidiri Since technical solutions exist, it is possible to apply them to all languages of the world if the ethical principles put forth and discussed here are applied by all social actors in every sphere of activity.
Marcel Diki-Kidiri STPHANE GRUMBACH THE INTERNET IN CHINA The rift between the Chinese Internet, and the American Internet, or more generally Western Internet, is one of those that experiences regular upheavals, sometimes like an earthquake, as media and political policy causes reactions in public opinion and at the highest state level. Differences and similarities between the two worlds meet on, and through, the medium that will greatly influence the future organization of the internet.
Original article in French.
Translated by Laura Kraftowitz.
STPHANE GRUMBACH, senior scientist at INRIA (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique - a French national institue for research in computer science and control), is a specialist of databases. He has hold various positions in the international cooperation, as head of international relations of Inria, science counselor in the French embassy in China, and head of a joint lab in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where he has been the first foreigner habilitated to take PhD students.
he internet brings individuals together as no media before it, allowing people to communicate both directly and by accessing Tposted information. Even language differences no longer present an untraversable barrier thanks to online translation tools. But the internet is not a uniform space with a free flow of information, but a fractured space whose fault lines reveal both diversity, a plurality of uses and more generally cultures, but also rivalries between different actors for control of the internet and its content, and for market domination.
The rift between the Chinese and American/Western internet undergoes regular storms, which at times impact both the media and politics, prompting reactions both in public opinion and at the highest level of government. Balancing these forces could help direct the future organization of the web, its cultural, technological and economic options, and the degree of openness or closure/balkanization of the global network.
If fundamental differences have emerged in network philosophy, particularly around issues of neutrality and freedom of expression that are closely followed in western media, it is actually the less publicised subjects of economics and strategy that dominate movements of digital divergence and convergence between these two major players.
With its economy growing steadily since Deng Xiaoping’s policy of openness was introduced in 1978, and becoming the second largest economy after overtaking Japan in 2010, China now owns a third of global foreign exchange reserves. As many students enter universities in China as in the United States and Europe combined, and in certain areas of engineering China’s researchers now publish more than American researchers. The emergence of China as a leading world power ensures the country’s very Stphane Grumbach high and for too long underestimated capacity for international action, especially with regards to innovation.
In the digital sphere as well, China is not far behind. Of its more than 600 million mobile phone users, nearly half access the internet via their mobile ; of its 420 million internet users as of June 2010 according to the cnnic 1, 60 % of them are under 30 and eager for new technology. China thus constitutes the world’s largest it market, and multinational corporations are prudent to build the majority of their new research labs in China.
China also carries significant weight in the domain of culture. With million people online, Chinese is the second largest language group after English (536 million speakers) 2, but a penetration rate of only 32 %, lower than English (42 %), which promises a superior growth potential. Chinese is thus becoming one of the web’s predominant languages.
In January 2010, the debate on censorship led to a serious showdown between China and the United States, with Google as the main issue.
Following a slew of cyber-attacks from China that it posed as the victim of, Google decided to end the censorship it had previously imposed on its search engine in the Chinese territory by redirecting google.cn to google.com.hk, its site in Hong Kong, which offers uncensored searching in Chinese. It is easy to see that beyond freedom of expression, trade issues are far from marginal in such shows of force.
While Europeans have become accustomed to relying heavily on online services offered by u.s. companies (Google, Facebook, eBay, Twitter, etc.), the Chinese have developed their own national champions of the web that hold their country’s largest market share, and occupy four of the Alexa top twenty world rankings 3, competing with leading American companies. This is particularly true of the search engine Baidu, which holds over 60 % of China’s market share and comes in 6th in the Alexa ranking.
Baidu, which is being developed in Japan, offers many services, including an encyclopedia built in a cooperative manner like that of Wikipedia.
Ironically however, the site itself (baidu.jp) is inaccessible in China.
1 http://www.cnnic.net.cn 2 http://www.internetworldstats.com, June 2010.
See in this book : Daniel Prado, Language Presence in the Real World and Cyberspace.
3 http://www.alexa.com/topsites Stphane Grumbach The dynamism of forums, blogs, social networks, instant messaging and online business reflects both the popularity of the web among Chinese youth, and its effectiveness in the domestic industrial sector. Among the most prominent companies are Tencent which, with its famous chat service qq, games, and virtual worlds (an entire culture in China !) comes in 8th in the Alexa rating. Alibaba and its subsidiaries in electronic commerce, including Taobao, come in 13th ; Sina.com, with information on China, comes in 16th.
Suspicion between the two regions is not limited to content or to the degree of market opening to foreign companies, but also concerns how data travels over the network. In spring 2010, when some traffic from the U.S. government and private companies passed through China for a few minutes due to errors in the routing information issued by a Chinese internet service provider, an investigation was launched by the United States on the causes of the diversion.
The example of China shows the relationship between development policy, internet presence using domestic language and script, and national economic and geopolitical issues. Network globalisation has become reality, and as traditional issues of international relations have entered the digital world, so has a new articulation of cultures and lifestyles.
Stphane Grumbach MICHAL OUSTINOFF THE ECONOMY OF LANGUAGES It was not until the late twentieth century that economists took a serious interest in languages as a field of study in their own discipline. Why so late Because it is only with globalisation and the growing power of multilingualism that languages have truly merged for what they are : a major strategic factor in global communication, not only on the political, cultural or societal planes, but also the economic. A product is no longer marketable on a global scale without taking into account this dimension : “No translation, no product”.
Original article in French.
Translated by Laura Kraftowitz.
MICHAL OUSTINOFF is Associate Professor (Habil.) in Translation Studies at the Institute of the Anglophone World, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle and currently on sabbatical leave at the ISCC, the Institute for Communication Sciences of the CNRS. His third book Traduire et communiquer l’heure de la mondialisation (Translating and Communicating in a Globalized World) was published by CNRS ditions in 2011.
ot until the late XXth century did economists take a serious interest in language as a field of study within their discipline. Why so late NSeveral explanations can be pointed out, but we’ll start with the most obvious and important : globalisation made it impossible to ignore language. From the economic viewpoint, languages became a considerable and strategic industry in their own right.
In a recent study on the size of the “language industry” [RINSCHE 2009], the Directorate-General for Translation (dgt) of the European Commission assessed its value at 8.4 billion euros as of 2008, noting that it was one of the sectors that had best weathered the economic crisis, with an impressive growth rate of 10 % (pretty unbeatable), and conservative estimates predicting growth attaining 16.5 billion euros in 2015, while high estimates predicted up to 20 billion. As such growth is comparable planet-wide [DWYER 2010], we can see why economists feel compelled to take a closer interest, across all levels of economic analysis. A fundamental question that the United States is now taking seriously, along with the United Kingdom, through institutions like the British Council [GRADDOL 1997] and the British Academy [BRITISH ACADEMY 2009].
Nevertheless, the emergence of a new industry, whose spectacular expansion is linked to the ict (Information and Communication Technologies) industry within the context of globalisation, is not limited to an analysis of its economic weight. As essential as that issue is, the language economy is inseparable from its political dimension at the level of global governance.
Viewed from this perspective, language can no longer be considered merely in terms of cost – a consideration that until now has been about minimizing, a function that English-only policies were supposed to help Michal Oustinoff meet 1 – but must be also viewed in terms of investment, just as much economic as it is cultural and geopolitical, and whose interest appears all the more starkly against a backdrop of the worst global financial crisis we have known since the Great Depression, which was also born in the United States.
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