The world is diverse. There are thousands of ethnicities and languages, and hundreds of countries. And we claim that the Internet helps us live in an open world without borders. True, but language is an important aspect of that. If you don’t have a common language, you can’t communicate with anyone. Social networks are a major part of contemporary life, giving the ability to broadcast a message to thousands of readers. But again – if you have a common language.
For a long time I’ve wondered whether I should create a 2nd twitter account where I tweet only in English, because rarely someone not knowing my language would follow my tweets. And I obviously couldn’t follow anyone except people tweeting in English or my native language. That language segregation may not look like an immediate problem, but I believe it is not be ignored.
There are some solutions, of course. Last week I had this short conversation on twitter – there are browser add-ons that give you the option to translate a tweet. I’ve seen bing-powered translation on some facebook posts. And my service welshare offers inline translation for every tweet/facebook post/message (via google translate). But the language barrier problem remains open. Should English be the language? No. Should we try to invent the babel fish? By all means. But it’s really hard. And the more we are able to broadcast our messages, the more problematic the language barrier becomes.