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Mobile technology designed to improve language diversity

Language diversity

In the technological world of mobile media, it’s not always easy to preserve language diversity. Communication technologies, and social media in particular, present benefits such as the opportunity to improve the prestige of a language and promote its use among younger generations. But they also present challenges when we consider, for example, that interaction and input rely more on processes like speed recognition and gesture typing, than on traditional keyboard typing.

Predictive text has been implemented for global languages, but there is not enough support for minority languages with smaller commercial markets. The global trend is towards less linguistic diversity, as local and indigenous languages are being replaced by languages like English, Spanish or Chinese, with speech-controlled applications failing to take minority languages into consideration.

Irish (Gaeilge) for example, despite being the first official language of Ireland, is only spoken by about 40-70,000 people daily, out of the Irish population of 4.6 million. The remainder of the population uses English. A recent report shows that some of the obstacles encountered by Irish speakers included mobile interfaces inhibiting the use of Irish, the audience for Irish being smaller than the audience for English, and their networks being linguistically pluralistic.

Interaction designers should consider these issues when designing for minority language users. The computerization of minority languages, together with software localization or translation, provide new opportunities for language preservation and revitalization. On Apple devices, for example, basic input of text for minority languages with a script closely related to a majority language is not a problem, but most Irish people would still use English on social media, as using a minority language might limit engagement.

Preserving minority languages is really important, as a language represents a particular culture, and contains unique information about the world. As global technology giants like Facebook and Google try to enter developing regions of the world, linguistic self-determination is becoming of great importance.

By Maria D'Innocenzo

The Bolivians aren’t lovin’ it!

Lovin' it

McDonald's may pop into many people's minds when they can't be bothered to cook and, of course, to do the washing-up. But did you know which South American country was not lovin' it?

In 2002, after only 8 year of operations, McDonald's closed down all restaurants in Bolivia. While the convenience of fast food seems irresistible to the rest of world, the Bolivians were not big fans of McDonald's, which operated on losses in the country every year. One can't help asking, why did Bolivians reject the fast food chain?

In fact, it's got something to do with the country's mindset. The mass production and rapid preparation of food are not favoured by the Bolivians, who prefer food that is healthy and cooked properly. They place great importance on what goes into their stomachs and are conscious of any health risk posed to their bodies. And for them, cheeseburgers just weren’t cutting it.

Yet, there were rumours in 2015 that McDonald's was planning a return. If that's true, let's wait and see if history will repeat itself.

By Man Kit Leong

Strange law: Did you know you can get fined for selling big fridges in Australia?

Strange law

In Australia, you can get a fine of up to AUD$750 for selling a fridge with compartments of over 42.5 litres. This strange law certainly makes no sense in the modern context. It was, however, reasonable in the old days when someone could get trapped in a fridge as the door could not be opened from inside.

Here's another bizarre law: the Law of Property Act 1936 states that a married woman can acquire, hold and dispose of property as if she were single. It was enacted in 1883 when women had very restricted legal rights.

Though seemingly odd in the modern day, the laws were there for a reason and tell us a thing or two about the past.

by Man Kit Leong

How to express feelings in Japanese: Honne and Tatemae

Express feelings

In Japan, there are two important words you should know to express feelings: honne (one's true feelings) and tatemae (how one shows their feelings in public).

For the Japanese, it is very important not to show their true feelings in public, so they don't risk offending others. It's all about respect and not being rude, so even though you may not want to meet up with someone, you come up with a polite excuse so they think that you wish you could go, but simply can't.

Can you think of a time when you've used tatemae?

by Kathryn Rose