Internet: Could It Really Become a Language Killer?

Internet: Could It Really Become a Language Killer?As a child, I can remember when the Catholic Church performed its mass in Latin. At the time, Latin was also offered, at least in parochial school, as an elective in foreign language studies. Since that time, however, Latin has basically been delegated to the ancient languages category that is only offered in specialized fields of study.

However, when this was occurring, I didn’t think much more about it aside from how wonderful it was that I didn’t have to learn something I would never use. Today, however, I can see some modern languages also dying as the Internet creates an arena that does not encompass some 60 or so different languages, or dialects, specific to certain regions of the world. This scenario is even more likely as Web providers, like Google and Siri, begin to offer more and more services intended to translate webpage data for the reader into a vast variety of popular languages, such as English. In fact, one can even find sites that offer translation services controlled through speech command.

Which languages are threatened? In a recent report from the European organization META (Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance), soon-to-be extinct languages could include Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian, and surprisingly, could even include German, Italian, Spanish, and French in the future.

META also took a hard look at language technologies, including software, that were specific to a limited number of languages such as:

  • Spell check
  • Grammar check
  • Siri, Robin, and other voice-to-speech applications
  • Navigation systems
  • Google Translate

Using these features, META found that some languages, such as Icelandic with only approximately 300,000 users, were not supported. In fact, META’s research concluded that there is an ever-widening rift between languages that are commonly used on the Internet and those that are smaller and used less frequently online. Perhaps, not surprisingly, the report also concluded that by the year 2015, Chinese would replace English as the dominant language on the Internet.

However, the Internet is not the only factor in languages dying. The fact is that the European Union has, for the most part, lifted its interlocking boundaries with fellow Union members and now they share a common currency. This open access between the European countries has allowed a free exchange of goods and services, but is still hampered by one glaring difference: the barrier of language. To make trade and communication easier, some in Europe are proposing a common language, but many countries in the European Union have been vocal in opposing this proposal.

Being of Italian heritage, I can understand the reluctance to accept a common language that would eliminate some of the cultural differences between countries. Each of the regions in Europe is unique and proud of who they are. Besides that, change is hard as was shown in the United States when it made an effort to convert over to the metric system. This changeover supposedly began decades ago, but met with such resistance that it still has not completely replaced the older standard US system that uses inches and feet. To prove this, I only need to look inside of my tool cabinet to be reminded that I own both SAE and metric-designed tools. In fact, one of the tools I bought just last year was a Sears wrench designed to fit both SAE and metric bolts.

Going back a little, you might ask why I suggest that the Chinese language may become the primary language of use on the Internet. First, remember that many of our technology companies have moved to China and that the Chinese are majority stockholders in many other new and upcoming companies. With that being said, a recent UN report on broadband use stated that by the year 2015, the majority of users on the Internet would be Chinese.

Does this mean that English could eventually become a dying language? I don’t have an answer to that, but then I am sure that the people of Latvia and Iceland didn’t believe, just a century ago, that they would ever have to teach their children a different primary language. How many foreign language sites do you visit in a day? Are you helping to kill these less frequently used languages? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

Source: META

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Vectorportal

Avoid These Common Email Grammar Blunders

There should be an image here!One sure way to look careless, sloppy, and perhaps even dumb is to send emails containing grammar mistakes. You would be surprised at how many people send emails containing common grammar errors that could easily be avoided. Although Outlook does correct grammar errors, it does not catch all of them.

I recently went through some of my emails and made a list of the top five grammar blunders that I found:

  • i.e. instead of e.g.
  • Then instead of than
  • Your instead of you’re
  • Effect instead of affect
  • Could of instead of could have

It doesn’t take a grammar whiz to identify some of these common blunders. So next time you compose an email, don’t rely on Outlook to make any and all corrections. Take an extra minute to review the email to ensure you haven’t made any of these common mistakes.

[Photo above by Dimitri N / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Wordiness – 5 Ways To Avoid It

There should be an image here!One thing I’ve noticed about many of us is that we sure like to insert unnecessary words into sentences. As a result, we end up with very wordy documents that only distract the readers from the points we’re trying to get across.

Want to make your writing less wordy (and thereby more effective)? Here are five tips you can try to reduce wordiness:

  1. Remove unnecessary words such as “very” and “extremely.”
  2. Remove unnecessary phrases such as “As a result,” “Given the fact that,” “For the purpose of,” etc.
  3. Omit the word “this” from a sentence by joining it to the preceding sentence using a comma.
  4. Replace passive verbs with active verbs.
  5. Avoid starting sentences with “It is” and “There are.”

[Photo above by Dimitri N / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Wordiness – 5 Ways To Avoid It

There should be an image here!One thing I’ve noticed about us IT Professionals is that we sure like to insert unnecessary words into sentences. As a result, we end up with very wordy documents that only distract the readers from the points we’re trying to get across.

Want to make your writing less wordy (and thereby more effective)? Here are five tips you can try to reduce wordiness:

  1. Remove unnecessary words such as “very” and “extremely.”
  2. Remove unnecessary phrases such as “As a result,” “Given the fact that,” “For the purpose of,” etc.
  3. Omit the word “this” from a sentence by joining it to the preceding sentence using a comma.
  4. Replace passive verbs with active verbs.
  5. Avoid starting sentences with “It is” and “There are.”

[Photo above by Dimitri N / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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Avoid These Common Email Grammar Blunders

There should be an image here!One sure way to look careless, sloppy, and perhaps even dumb is to send emails containing grammar mistakes. You would be surprised at how many people send emails containing common grammar errors that could easily be avoided. Although Outlook does correct grammar errors, it does not catch all of them.

I recently went through some of my emails and made a list of the top five grammar blunders that I found:

  • i.e. instead of e.g.
  • Then instead of than
  • Your instead of you’re
  • Effect instead of affect
  • Could of instead of could have

It doesn’t take a grammar whiz to identify some of these common blunders. So next time you compose an email, don’t rely on Outlook to make any and all corrections. Take an extra minute to review the email to ensure you haven’t made any of these common mistakes.

[Photo above by Dimitri N / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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Use Correct Capitalization In Your Documents

Knowing when to capitalize words within a sentence can be tricky, even for experienced technical writers. However, any technical writer should be aware of when to capitalize certain words within a sentence. Of course, you may think that this is simple and that all you need to remember is to capitalize the first letter of each sentence. This is definitely not the case. There are a number of other rules that apply to capitalization, which are summarized below.

  • Capitalize the first word of each sentence.
  • Capitalize the first person singular word I.
  • Capitalize proper nouns including the names of specific people and organizations, places, and in certain circumstances, things.
  • Relationships should be capitalized when used as proper names, as seen in the following two examples:
    • We went to visit Aunt Margaret.
    • We bought Mom a new car for her birthday.
  • Geographical locations should be capitalized, as seen in the following example:
    • The last place I visited was Chicago, Illinois.
  • Do not capitalize directional names when they refer to compass directions. The following examples demonstrate this:
    • You must turn west on Highway 12 to reach your destination.
    • The school is three miles south of our home.
  • Capitalize the days of the week, months of the year, and holidays.
  • Do not capitalize the seasons unless they are used in a title. Note the following three examples:
    • I work out every Tuesday evening.
    • We are taking a vacation in February.
    • We are going on a vacation this winter.
  • Capitalize the names of newspapers, magazines, and journals.
  • Capitalize the names of historical events. For example:
    • We are studying World War I in our class.

Avoid Using Idiomatic Expressions

Idiomatic expressions are slang expressions. Idioms are simply expressions that have a completely different meaning than the individual words that make up the expression. For example, the phrase add up is an idiom that has the meaning of consistent, as shown in this example:

When I asked the teenagers where they had been, their stories did not add up.

The English language has many idioms. Using them in written material, such as technical documents, is generally not recommended.

Some of the commonly used idioms, along with their meanings, are listed below.

As easy as pie — simple

Antsy — restless

Best around the bush — avoid an issue or question

The bottom line — most important piece of information

Go with the flow — take things as they come

Jump the gun — act hastily

Keep an eye on — watch out for

Leave well enough alone — Take no action

Make a mountain out of a molehill — overreact

Once in a while — occasionally

State of the art — up-to-date

Under the weather — not well

Colons And Semicolons

Colons and semicolons — they sound similar and look similar, but they each serve a different purpose. People are often confused about the difference between a colon and a semicolon and when each is appropriate.

There are rules as to when colons should be used in a sentence. The most common use for colons is at the end of sentences that introduce a list, such as a list of steps, as shown in the following example:

The following steps describe how to open a new Microsoft Word document:

  1. Click Start.
  2. Point to All Programs.
  3. Point to Microsoft Office.
  4. Click Microsoft Word.

Semicolons are often referred to as “super commas.” Semicolons are used to join together two independent clauses that are not joined together using a coordinating conjunction (such as but or yet). Another situation in which a semicolon should be used is in place of the word and plus a comma. Finally, semicolons are also used between two independent clauses that are joined using a transitional expression.

The following sentences provide examples of how semicolons should be used:

  1. Our dog always gets off her leash; we had to fence the backyard.
  2. The semester was finally finished; we were glad it was spring break.

Avoid Using Idiomatic Expressions

Idiomatic expressions are slang expressions. Idioms are simply expressions that have a completely different meaning than the individual words that make up the expression. For example, the phrase add up is an idiom that has the meaning of consistent, as shown in this example:

When I asked the teenagers where they had been, their stories did not add up.

The English language has many idioms. Using them in written material, such as technical documents, is generally not recommended.

Some of the commonly used idioms, along with their meanings, are listed below.

As easy as pie — simple

Antsy — restless

Best around the bush — avoid an issue or question

The bottom line — most important piece of information

Go with the flow — take things as they come

Jump the gun — act hastily

Keep an eye on — watch out for

Leave well enough alone — Take no action

Make a mountain out of a molehill — overreact

Once in a while — occasionally

State of the art — up-to-date

Under the weather — not well

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twitrans

I wish I could speak and write in more than one language. English is all I know, and if I knew even just one more language, I would be able to communicate with so many more people. As the world becomes even more interconnected, the people who can speak multiple languages are the ones who will have a distinct advantage. When you communicate in public online, you never really know who could be reading what you’re writing. It’s almost a guarantee that people who speak languages other than the one you write in will read your content. Sometimes you may even want to communicate with them directly. A service called twitrans makes communicating in multiple languages through Twitter a lot more accessible.

How does it work? You simply send twitrans a message through Twitter in a format that tells them how to translate the message and then their team of human translators does the translation for you as soon as possible and sends the translated message back to you. This service is available to promote the paid services of OneHourTranslation, however, for messages this short, you could probably mostly get by with using an online translator like Babel Fish.

Calameo

Thanks to the Internet, file formats aren’t nearly as big of a deal as they used to be. Granted, there are still numerous formats for almost every kind of file that you can imagine, but the Internet is the equalizer. We have services that can stream videos in many different formats online, and we also have music services that can play your tunes through the Internet regardless of what format they’re in. What about documents? While we used to just upload documents to the Internet and have people download them to their computers, things have changed. Now you can view some documents straight from your Web browser, and services like Calameo enable you to publish documents in many different formats online. 

What Calameo essentially does is turn your documents into online publications that can be shared and embedded. Instead of just scrolling down to read more, you flip back and forth through the pages, insert bookmarks, and view the content in the way that you want to. Calameo is an international service, and you’ll see bits of French alongside the English. There are competitors, but no matter which solution you choose, overall you’ll be getting the same functionality.

vozMe

I’ve been looking into a lot of audio services lately, and I think a big reason for this is because I haven’t exactly kept up with what’s going on with audio on the Internet. There are always new developments to be aware of, and while I like to know about them, I’m not always going to use them. Text-to-speech technology probably isn’t what you would think of when you think of cutting-edge audio technology, but down to this day, I still like to use it for certain projects of mine. Some may consider it a toy, but whether you want to play around with it or put it to work, vozMe has you covered.

This site gives you the ability to use text-to-speech technology in English and Spanish, and to create an MP3 out of a certain block of text, just type it in and click the button. Yes, it really is that easy. The audio quality is pretty good, and it’s certainly usable. Webmasters can add this functionality to their Web sites, and iGoogle users also have access to a vozMe gadget.

Why English Grammar Is So Complicated

This is going to be a rant, so if you are expecting something from me about how I love grammar, forget it! For me English grammar has been, is and will forever be a pain in my rump. I have been criticized by many for my lack of proper grammatical usage [ is there such a term as ‘grammatical usage’?] if not, I don’t care. I have struggled with grammar since grammar school. Is that the reason they called it grammar school? Were we there just to learn grammar?

So in surfing the Internet and I ran into a site dedicated to grammar. What the heck, I’ll see what they have to say. This is where I discover why English grammar is such a pain. There is no semblance of structure or order! There is my problem with grammar. I am a black and white person, no gray allowed. Grammar depends on a set of rules that someone, somewhere made up and the rest of us are stuck in using.

Like this one:

Its/it’s

Unlike most possessives, “its” does not contain an apostrophe. It is just one of the many cases where the English language is unnecessarily complex. The trouble with English is not that it has too many rules – it’s that there are too many exceptions to the rules. But “its/it’s” is a case wherein it’s good to remember that an apostrophe often replaces a letter. If the word is “it’s,” ask yourself, “What letter has been removed?” The answer clearly is “i.” The letter i from “it is” has been replaced by the apostrophe.

So, to clarify:
Its = belonging to it. “The frying pan has a dent in its handle.”
It’s = it is. “It’s not my fault the frying pan is dented!”

There is the problem. I don’t care if the pan has a dented handle. I just want to know who dented it! :-)

Rant Off.

Comments welcome.

More grammar help is here.

[tags]grammar, english, dislike, spelling, help, confusing, words. [/tags]

Jimdo

Easy Web site creation tools have risen in popularity, and there are plenty of services to choose from if you’re looking to create a Web presence for something. Of course, if you’re wanting to build a site for your business or for some other serious and somewhat professional endeavor, then it only makes sense to either use some of the more advanced tools or hire someone to give your site that fine polish that it needs, however, if you just want to have fun and share some information with a group of your friends and family, then the simple and free tools are the way to go. Jimdo qualifies as one of these simple and free tools.

The company is based in Germany, so you might encounter some content that you may not fully understand as someone who speaks English, but it’s really not a big deal. This is a multilingual service, so it’s accessible to a lot of people, which is great. If you can use a mouse then you can use Jimdo, and the service works well with content like pictures, RSS, and so on. You can even edit the code, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a ridiculously simple Web site creation tool?

Word Confusion

One of my job functions is to edit the work of other technical writers. As I am going through documents, I always come across errors in word usage. Such errors are understandable because some words sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Deciding which word to use can often lead to confusion (hence the title Word Confusion). For example, one of the most common mistakes I see is the misuse of the words “there,” “their,” and “they’re.”

An entire book could be dedicated to word confusion, listing all the words that sound the same but are spelled differently. However, I’ve picked out a few of the ones that I commonly come across (and misuse myself). The table below lists some of the more common words that often confuse us and the correct form that should be used.

  • its/it’s: Use “it’s” to replace “it is” or “it has.” Use “its” to show ownership. For example: It’s been snowing for three days. I found the marker. Where is its lid?
  • accept/except: She would accept the promotion, except someone had to be hired to fill her existing job role.
  • their/there/they’re: They’re taking their boat down the road to park it over there.
  • your/you’re: You’re going to have to pack your suitcase the night before.
  • affect/effect: The doctor informed me that the medicine could have side effects. It didn’t affect me.
  • aid/aide: The job of the teachers aide was to aid any students that needed extra help.
  • were/we’re/where: We’re going to the lake for the summer. Where did you say you were going?
  • that/which: The school that my brother used to go to, which is across the street from my parents house, is closing next year.
  • break/brake: I had to get the brake in my car fixed on my lunch break.
  • threw/through: I threw the baseball through the living room window.
  • than/then: I had more experience than the other candidates.We were going to the beach then to our friends cabin.
  • good/well: My son is a good hockey player; he skates well.
  • fewer/less: There were fewer red ones than green ones.Although I have fewer clients now, I still have less free time.
  • last/recent: On our most recent visit to the city, we went to see the last concert before the theater was permanently closed.
  • right/write: I asked her to write down the directions so I would remember where to turn right.
  • sense/since: I have a much better sense of direction since I have been exploring the city.
  • anticipate/expect: I am trying to anticipate the number of people at the party; I expect there will be around 400 guests.
  • confident/confidant: She informed her confidant of the situation; she was confident the information would not be made public.
  • now/know/no: Once of realized the dangers of it, I now know why our parents always said no when we asked for a dirt bike.
  • passed/past: In the past, we would have always passed slow drivers on this street.
  • quiet/quit/quite: The staff was quite shocked and quiet when the vice-president announced his intent to quit the company.
  • precede/proceed: We had to proceed with the final speaker because the one who was to precede her did not show up.
  • later/latter: We will deal with the latter issue at a later date in time.
  • which/who: Which should only be used when referring to objects. Who should be used to refer to people.His cousin, who lives in Maine, came to visit.Which car do you like?