From the decline of languages in my last post we move onto to the thriving language of Arabic. According to the website Chief Marketer businesses should ensure that they cater content to an Arabic speaking audience as the language is quickly becoming a major player on the internet.
Recent research from Common Sense Advisory on the size and economic opportunity of online language populations shows that Arabic has surpassed Russian, French, and German in total online population. The language now ranks #11 in share of online spending potential, notching the fastest growth between 2011 and 2012.
Although writing content in Arabic is clearly a good choice for businesses, it is a choice many businesses are not making. Arabic is ‘the most underserved language on top global websites around the world’. As many businesses are not tapping into this audience it makes even more business sense to cater to an Arabic audience as there is less competition. If we look to the future it seems unlikely that Arabic will remain ‘underserved’.
via: Chief Marketer
Since 2004 Iraq’s national anthem has been “Mawtini” which was chosen for the nation by America. Now a new national anthem has been chosen to replace the temporary “Mawtini”. What is interesting about this new national anthem is that it will be multilingual. The majority of the anthems lyrics will be in Arabic but Turkmen, Kurdish and perhaps Assyrian will also be included to reflect the many languages spoken in the country.
Iraq’s multilingual approach to their national anthem is rare but not the only anthem to embrace diversity of languages. The Independent reports:
The Republic of Suriname, wedged between French Guiana and Guyana, has a two-verse anthem: the first stanza in colonial Dutch and the second in Sranan Tongo.
Though the real tongue-twister comes for the sportsmen of South Africa. They are required to sing an anthem that traverses the lingual terrains of Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, English and Xhosa.
Perhaps Britain should add a Welsh verse to God Save The Queen and maybe a few lines of Cornish too. On the other hand I’ve heard English people attempt to pronounce the Welsh letters ll and ch and it isn’t a pretty sight. Perhaps we should leave God Save The Queen alone.
This week was A-Level results week, where thousands of young people found out what their immediate future holds.
It appears that fewer young people are choosing languages to be part of their future, with reports saying that the number of British teenagers choosing a European language A-Level has fallen.
The number of students taking German has fallen below 5,000, with entries in French down to around 12,500. Interesting, languages such as Polish, Arabic and Japanese have seen a slight rise in the number of candidates. It seems that languages traditionally studied in British schools are proving less popular with young people.
Andrew Hall, chief executive of the AQA exam board, said the drop in the number of people taking A-levels in traditional modern foreign languages was a real worry. “We have the euro economy in crisis – I think modern foreign languages are in the same place,” he said.
There was no magic bullet to fix the problem, Hall said, but he welcomed the government’s move this year to introduce modern languages in primary schools.
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the OCR exam board, said universities had made it clear they wanted students with qualifications in science and maths. “I’m not sure the message has been as strong around languages, so they could assist in this approach,” he said. (Source: The Guardian)
The world’s newest nation, South Sudan, has adopted English as its official language.
South Sudan was created after a referendum earlier this year, splitting off from the mainly Arabic speaking Sudan. Leaders hope that choosing English will make South Sudan a modern country and see it as a “tool for development”.
“With English,” the news director of South Sudan Radio, Rehan Abdelnebi, told me haltingly, “we can become one nation. We can iron out our tribal differences and communicate with the rest of the world.” (Source: BBC News)
There are issues, however. Around 150 different languages are spoken in the country, with most people having grown up speaking a form of Arabic. Few people speak English, and a large proportion of the population are illiterate.
Let’s hope that South Sudan can become a successful and peaceful country, with or without English.
Angelina Jolie recently proclaimed her love for the Russian language, but language learning isn’t just for A-list movie stars – as footballers from Manchester City recently showed.
Whilst Jolie learned Russian for her new movie, Salt, the footballers picked up some Arabic for the launch of a website in the United Arab Emirates. The Sun reports they had varying degrees of success, with the club’s Arabic media executive saying “I was surprised how fast some of the players picked it up. Adebayor was especially good.”
The footballers and Jolie had a common purpose for their learning – it was required for their work. And whilst they might not be fluent in the languages, they definitely made an effort.
Angelina also pinpoints one of the reasons for her success – practice!
I just had to practice over and over and over and I was told that I was getting it wrong a bunch of times and I had to keep practicing. (Source: US Weekly)
Last November I posted about the internet regulator Icann approving the use of different alphabets, ending the dominance of Latin-based alphabets such as English. The new web addresses were expected in 2010, and at the start of May the new domains became available for use!
Previously web addresses could be written partly in different scripts, but the ‘country code’ (e.g. co.uk) had to be written in a Latin script. The change means that the entire address can be written in, for example, Arabic, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates the first to do so.
Unfortunately, not all computer users will be able to use the new domain names immediately as they may not have the correct fonts installed.
“You may see a mangled string of letters and numbers, and perhaps some percent signs or a couple of “xn--”s mixed into the address bar,” said Mr Davies. “Or it may not work at all.”…
“Computers never come with the complete set of fonts that will allow it to show every possible IDN [internationalised domain names] in the world.
“Often this is fixed by downloading additional language packs for the missing languages, or specifically finding and installing fonts that support the wanted languages.” (Source: BBC News)
The country codes:
Egypt: مصر (Egypt)
Saudi Arabia: السعودية (AlSaudiah)
United Arab Emirates: امارات (Emarat)
The internet is a great resource for language learning, but only if you can find the information you need.
Good news for English speakers and language learners as English is the language most used by internet users. According to research by Internet World Stats, English is the language used by almost 30% of users. This is quite closely followed by Chinese and then Spanish. Japanese, French, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Russian and Korean round out the top 10.
Keeping this in mind, try out this game to see if you can guess the world’s top 20 most spoken languages. I think the number one will surprise you!
Today is International Mother Language Day, designated as such by UNESCO in 1999 and first celebrated in 2000. Observed yearly by UNESCO member states, the day aims to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
The day has its origins in Language Movement Day, which was first commemorated in Bangladesh in 1952. Each year has a theme, with this year being the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures. Previous themes have included International Year of Languages (2008) and Linguistic Diversity (2002).
This year, in conjunction with International Mother Language Day, the UN will launch a new initiative called UN Language Days. These seek to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity, two of the aims of Mother Language Day. It also aims to promote equal use of all six of the UN’s official working languages – Chinese, English, Spanish, French, Russian and Arabic – through six new observance days.
UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova noted in her message for the Day:
“Languages are the best vehicles of mutual understanding and tolerance. Respect for all languages is a key factor for ensuring peaceful coexistence, without exclusion, of societies and all of their members,” she said. (Source: UN)
Yesterday I posted about Christmas songs in different languages, and now it’s time to wish you a very happy Christmas, again in a few different languages! So….
Miilaad Majiid (Arabic), Joyeux Noël (French), Frohe Weinachten (German), Buon Natale (Italian), Meri Kurisumasu (Japanese), Shèng dàn kuài lè (Mandarin), Feliz Natal (Portugese), Feliz Navidad (Spanish), and finally Merry Christmas (UK)!
Try this Omniglot page for more translations in more languages, including some audio recordings.
From all of us at Language Museum, we wish you a safe and happy Christmas. See you in the New Year!
I take it for granted that most of the content I want to view on the web will be in my native language, English, and I merely have to type the website’s name into my browser to navigate to the site.
For speakers of languages with non-Latin based writing systems (including Arabic, Cyrillic and Chinese), this is not the case. To navigate to websites, they need to type in characters such as the ones you see here. And for those unfamiliar with Latin letters, this proves a hindrance to accessing content.
Last month, however, the internet regulator Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) approved the use of different alphabets, ending the dominance of Latin alphabets such as English.
It’s been hailed as a big move which can increase accessibility to the web, especially among those unfamiliar with Latin letters:
The impact will vary by location, with more remote countries seeing the biggest expansion. Rod Beckstrom, Icann’s president, called the step “a historic move toward the internationalisation of the internet … We just made the internet much more accessible to millions of people in regions such as Asia, the Middle East and Russia.” (Source: FT.com)
With the first official international web addresses expected in 2010, you could perhaps be logging on to 语言-博物院.com soon!