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Indian Languages Online

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on December 30, 2008 4 Comments

“Western technology companies have misunderstood the linguistic landscape of India, where English is spoken proficiently by only about a tenth of the population and even many college-educated Indians prefer the contours of their native tongues for everyday speech,” according to Quillpad creator Ram Prakash, the New York Times reports today. In the last couple of years, according to the Times, only some accommodations have been made:

• Search juggernauts Google and Yahoo have expanded tools in several Indian languages
• MS Windows Live customer service is now available in 7 Indian languages
• Facebook has been working on translating profiles into Indian languages
• The number of entries in Indian languages on Wikipedia now exceeds Korean

According to a recent survey by JuxtConsult, “the largely English-speaking base of around 50 million Web users in India today, nearly three-quarters prefer to read in a local language.” However, as CEO Sanjay Tiwari points out, “there is a huge shortage of local language content.”

I have covered this issue from a different angle in The Multilingual Internet and India earlier. I think the growing dialog around this issue is great!

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4 Responses to “Indian Languages Online”

  1. daveski on: 31 December 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Cool. Any open source groups, web activists or otherwise, out there who have taken up the cause of translating content into Indian languages? I know in Korea there was a movement for a while to get URLs in other languages too.

  2. Usree Bhattacharya on: 2 January 2009 at 9:24 pm

    This is what I found:

    “India is quietly working on enabling Indians to key in URLs in Indian languages. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) in New Delhi is working on this project in coordination with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit body that ensures every address is unique and that all users of the Internet can find all valid addresses.”

    I cannot seem to find any more info on this, and I am not exactly sure how credible it actually is.

  3. daveski on: 2 January 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Interesting. I wonder what kind of “quiet work” that is?

    I found this link for the UC Berkeley Script Encoding Initiative, but it’s several years old already. Deborah Anderson came to talk in Rick Kern’s Writing & Technology seminar 3 years ago, but I don’t know if she’s still at Berkeley….?

  4. Usree Bhattacharya on: 2 January 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Thanks for the link I’ll check it out. Rick mentioned her to me once.

    I don’t understand why the work is so “quiet” that I can’t find anything on it online. What’s so top secret about it?

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