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Practical Techie: Lingua Franca, a universal language for the web

It has been recommended many times but nothing is official.

We see it happen practically all the time, all over the internet, and of course, its spinoff, the web. I’m talking about having a single use of an official language throughout our digital world.  A lingua franca, a universal language that gives the web great human functionality. Web? Well, I just used a word that is not in Spanish or any other language except English.

Its equivalent in Spanish is red, but few use it. Just like nobody says ratón, but the mouse. The Spanish call the “chip” a pastilla, but few pay any attention to that noun. No one mentions “utility applications” either, but rather “apps.”  Another tech name in Spanish is programados, but we say “software.”

It is easier to say “hardware” than estructuras electrónicas. Navegador is a browser. Buscador is a search engine. And so on, not only for Spanish but every other official language.

So it almost follows, without any official statement, that English is the common language of the internet. The main domains of the internet, com, gov, edu, net, etc., are in that language. After all, the internet is a US invention. Its main technologies are thought, designed, and built in English.

For example, the programs and algorithms of search engines or browsers do not recognize the eñe, nor other prepositions in Spanish, nor the tildes, or accentuation of words.

The main governance of the web is in the United States. However, for a decade there has been a movement by the UN to take administrative control of cyberspace because it is already considered a world heritage cultural resource. The process has not moved far, but many countries are in favor.

PRACTICALITY — English for the web is not about politics, nationalism or patriotic imposition. It’s about convenience. Practicality.

In reality, English is a collection of various dialects grouped together under a functional language that has been shaped by the United Kingdom since medieval times. The plot was complicated by the emergence of new variants in America — centered on the United States and Canada — as well as the former British colonies in the Caribbean, India, Australia and in the Arab world.

In the end, the resulting language is one of thousands of words borrowed from so many other cultures, which naturally internationalized English.

In another variable, due to its technicality, the English used on the internet is itself another new gibberish, a digital vernacular almost different from the languages ​​spoken in the streets, schools, and classrooms of the Anglo-Saxon countries.

Internet English is actually a crude, cold language, not at all poetic. For this reason, Professor Scott Fahlman, an artificial intelligence scientist invented emoticons, to give a bit of human meaning to machine language and its spoken derivatives.

LIMITATIONS — Nowadays, any person who barely speaks English limits full access, optimal use, and full usefulness of the web.

Not going to cybernetic English excludes the netizen from the intense experiences that this virtual world offers. Cyberspace is a wonderful ecosystem of social communication and great technological interactivity and is highly informative. It offers services of all kinds, news of the moment, scientific or educational and commercial databases. The web connects the user with businesses on an international scale, interesting forums for human debate, as well as the entire plethora of social networks with their great vitality. But it can become exclusive.

For example, in the massive cyber forums such as internet Relay Chat or the Usernet, people who write messages in their national languages ​​are ignored, and many times even insulted for not adhering to the common language of the users. Many times, in an intolerant way. This also occurs, through cultural intolerance, in international social media chats and platforms.

Thus, not being interested in the use of English, limits the internet user to the minimum content that the web would contain in their own country, without access to the culturally neurotic, multi-dimensionality of the global web.

BIG DATA — There are many reasons why English is imposed as the lingua franca of the web.  A least 93% of its technological infrastructure is built in that language, mostly through programming languages. In addition, thousands of international digital science scientists -most of them non-English speaking- publish their research in English for greater exposure. Another 90% of the databases are in the Shakespearean language.

Example: For the past 40 years, the main medical bibliography databases are in English. All the immense financial, diplomatic, military, and political intelligence databases are stored in English within the deeper web.

In addition to its global saturation as a business language, English is very rich in technical vocabulary and is less abstract than Romance languages, giving it a powerful cyber utility. No other language to date has coined so many new words, all descriptive, of course, of technological advances.

POLARITY — To deny such a reality is to polarize the users of the web into two camps, those who use it to the full and those who use it to a limited extent. In the future, geopolitical changes may alter this order of things. A greater technological preponderance of the European Union, China, or Japan, who knows if Brazil, could bring a new language of common use for the internet.

Even machine programming languages ​​can acquire much more national nuances and fragment the unofficial lingua franca of the present. There are already powerful search engines and browsers built-in national languages ​​in China and Russia. Also, Argentina, Spain, and Mexico have their search engines, just like Puerto Rico, among thousands more through the virtual world. But these are for the accumulation of local content, not for universal references.

We must somehow acquiesce. English is, in the same way, the language of international communications, like aviators and sailors who do international travel know very well. It is the working language of tour guides, multinational businessmen, doctors, and engineers.

One final thought. Never has humanity had a truly universal language. That is to say, used in four corners of the planet. We are too dissimilar in race, history, and culture.

However, today’s English is the Latin or Greek of ancient civilizations. Perhaps in the future may be Mandarin. Not an easy language to learn. It has 85,568 Chinese characters. In English, we can survive a lifetime with a vocabulary of 3,000 words.

So, in essence, it is not about pitiyanquismo, that is, Anglophilia, or perhaps imperial impositions in the 21st century. It is about common-sense usage.

Thus, until it’s official otherwise someday, English is for the web.

Author Details
Author Rafael Matos is a veteran journalist, a professor of digital narratives and university mentor. He may be contacted at cccrafael@gmail.com.
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