Language issues


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Language Versions

Which version of English should be used?

While the discussion below may be interesting, quite frankly, I expect that every contributor to the Wiki will use the form of English to which they are habituated. In one of the early target countries, English is used as a lingua franca but it is neither British English or American English. India has an English that is all its own.

hey! : D

One thing that would be interesting is an application that could analyse the writing and identify words that are NOT easy to understand. This Wiki couldn't function under the constraints of Basic English (850 words) and VOA Special English is oriented towards public affairs and news. However, we could develop our own vocabulary and glossary in the same way that VOA has done. An application could identify words that are not in our special vocabulary and then people could add them to a site glossary. In fact, Mediawiki could be modified to provide tooltip access to glossary entries for words which are not in this Wiki's basic vocabulary. This would make the Wiki far more accessible to people who live and work in the target countries.

An interesting aspect of using the English language is that it would be best to use a consistent version of the English language.

[Clarification note of 21 March 2006 The above sentence has the following intended meaning.

An interesting aspect of using the English language in those countries where English is already the language of tuition in the schools is that it would be best to use a consistent version of the English language.

This item was not intended in any way to suggest that English should be the language of tuition in countries where English is not already the language of tuition in the schools. I feel that people should be educated in their own language. For people in various countries around the world, that language is English. The intended topic of discussion is that if people in the United Kingdom and people in the United States of America and also people from other English-speaking countries work together in a wiki-style environment to produce learning material which is in the English language, patching together paragraphs and editing sentences, then it is important that, given that English has various different versions, that a consistent version of English is used. When one reads a document written in American English one can accept that the spelling is different from a document written in Oxford English: however, if the spelling style used within a document were to change from paragraph to paragraph and indeed even within sentences, then the texts will end up as a mess.

William Overington

21 March 2006


How should colour, modelling and customization be spelled?

There appear to be three main choices, namely en-us, en-gb and en-gb-oed.

I feel that en-gb-oed would be far the best for international use. The Oxford English Dictionary is known throughout the world and is often found in libraries.

Certainly, en-us and en-gb are the versions usually found with wordprocessors. I feel that where English is used for education that the spelling used should be consistent. For example, if sometimes the students meet the word colour spelled as colour (en-gb and en-gb-oed) and sometimes as color, then there is a problem. What if they want to write that they travelled into a town? That is the en-gb and en-gb-oed spelling, en-us is traveled. Yet when an item is customized, en-gb-oed and en-us are the same, yet en-gb will use customised. There is a widespread fallacy that the -ize ending is an Americanism; no, it went to America and stayed unaltered: in England en-gb was influenced by French.

I seem to remember that some international organizations using English use Oxford spelling (that is, the version of English for which en-gb-oed is the relatively recently introduced designation).

However, not every word which as an "ise or ize" sound has an -ize ending in en-gb-oed, so if this suggestion proceeds it will need a list to be produced from authorative sources by experts.

Whichever way the decision goes as to which version of English to use I feel that it is important that the issue be given consideration and a decision made; as otherwise, with the prospect of people from various countries contributing texts in English and the spelling being inconsistent between various documents in the collection of learning material for the students, a bad situation would exist.

William Overington

20 March 2006

Our goal is to make the language of the machines be the local language of the children. While there may be an effort to use the machine to teach English, the real challenge is to make more of the world's languages available. -- Walter

I was meaning places where English is the language of tuition. I agree that it is important that the language of the machines be the local language of the children. I do not know in which countries English is the language of tuition in schools, though English is an official language of India. Does anyone know what is the language of tuition in schools in India and in those African countries which are part of the Commonwealth? I was not thinking in terms of the teaching of English as a subject in a school where English is not the language of tuition. However, if there is an effort to use the machine to teach English, it would be important to have consistent spelling. With English, it is not just a matter of whether to use British English or American English. William Overington 20 March 2006

Whatever version of English that the UN uses officially should be the one used in OLPC. -Daniel Andersen 20 March 2006

I might not be well informed but I believe that each country should have content published on its own official language. I understand this probably sounds like a crazy idea, but if I were to learn something new (especially how to read and write) I would like to do it in my own language first. English is probably one of the most widely used languages, but in a developing country people that lack certain level of education do not know anything at all; and given their level of education they probably won't be interested in learning it either.

How will the different countries coordinate to generate content??? That's a whole new gameball that should be addressed soon in order to determine the pros and cons of this option.

Hiram Luna - Mexico, 3/21/2006

Countries that are former colonies do not necessarily have their 'own' language but have many languages as tribal boundaries were largely ignored in forming these nations. In Zambia, for example, the official language is English since more than seventy languages are spoken there. Education is in English (or French in former French colonies etc.) so that all tribal groups have a common tongue. India has English, Hindi and 21 other official languages. The standard version of English used in schools in these countries is British English; it should remain so. Andrea Olson 4/23/2006

I would recommend using American English as the standard, this for many reasons. First, it is the most dominant form of English on the Internet (do Google searches for humor and humour). Second, it is a more sensible spelling system for non-native speakers. (Though it's not perfect!) This, after all, was part of Ben Franklin's and Noah Webster's goal (it was also the goal of spelling reformers in England, who, unfortunately, reversed themselves after the American Revolution): to make English easier for non-native speakers, such as the numerous immigrants to the U.S., to learn. "Humorous" is the correct spelling in all versions of English. In American English, to get the noun, you just remove the suffix. In British English, you have to remove the suffix, then add a 'u'. (Note: these "American" spellings are actually the ones England, starting in Shakespeare's time, began using, until Samuel Johnson chose the Norman spellings for his dictionary.) Note, finally, that in the developing countries, or "developing parts" of semi-developed countries, that aren't former British colonies, American English is generally taught in schools. (Nearly all of Central and South America, non-Hong Kong China, etc.) That said, I like the idea of using Esperanto! And maybe a new, "mildly spelling reformed English" could be developed. I'd be happy to help. (I'm a linguist.) "Defense", "analyze", and a few other weird Noah Webster choices could be switched to their British variants, and then use mostly British punctuation (which is more sensible), and you'd have a good, sensible, international compromise. -Ben. 2006.06.13.

Which version of English to use is not an important issue. If the children are English proficient enough to learn content from English medium material, then they will also be seeking information from the web, where they will encounter more Englishes than the British and American ones. I'd expect that they will eventually adopt the one that is promoted by their national educational policies. The utopian situation is if there was just as much content in all the different languages as there was in English. The reality is, however, different. English is the predominant language on the web and those who do not understand it will have fewer resources to information than those who are fluent in the language.--YokeSauMetz 23:20, 26 October 2006 (EDT)

Versions of Spanish

In relation to Spanish, which I am hoping to learn, I read somewhere that the Spanish used in Spain differs from the Spanish used in Mexico. Is the difference large? Also, how uniform is the Spanish used in the various countries of Central and South America?

William Overington 21 March 2006

The difference between Spanish from Spain and Spanish in Latin America is mostly in the words and expressions they use. They do agree on the spelling (unlike in English), since the language is almost written phonetically. I say almost because Esperanto and Turkish are completely phonetic. Spanish is written phonetically for all practical purposes. It's very easy to pronounce what one is reading and it's very straightforward to write down what one hears. Polyglot 11:11, 21 March 2006 (EST)

Thank you. That is useful to know.

William Overington 1951 GMT 22 March 2006

Well, actually it depends. Argentina's spanish (actually from Buenos Aires to the south) is pronounced differently from other latin american countries. The changes are mainly on the "ll" (like calle, pronounced "cashe") and in the lack of distinction between "v" and "b", and "s" and "z". So there is no agreement in spelling, also in spanish. Given that the only spanish speaking country in the program is Argentina, I think this should be taken in account. Juan 13:01, 29 March 2006 (EST)
The main problem are the usual words. I am Mexican and some time ago I met an Argentinian couple from a province far from Buenos Aires at a train at Europe. The pronucation problem and the set of basic words was so different that we ended up, speaking... In English (the us version I guess, not the uk version mhhh scotish, gaelic, cockney or plain londonese?). Mexico / Ags. / 67 / --Dagoflores 02:39, 24 May 2006 (EDT)
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