The Null Device

A taste of otherness

A funny thing has happened on social-network site Orkut: by some quirk of social network dynamics, Brazilian Portuguese speakers now outnumber English speakers 2 to 1, and the Anglophones are getting a sudden taste of what it's like to be in a marginalised linguistic minority:
"Orkut maps one's social prestige, and Brazilians are by nature gregarious," said Beth Saad, a professor at the University of Sao Paulo's School of Communications and Arts.
Tammy Soldaat, a Canadian, got a sample of Brazilian wrath recently when she posted a message asking whether her community site on body piercing should be exclusive to people who speak English. Brazilian Orkut users quickly labeled her a "nazi" and "xenophobe."
"Since we can invite anyone we want at Orkut, and my friends are Brazilians, it doesn't make sense talking to them in English," Reis said in Portuguese. "I use the language I know." His compatriot Pablo Miyazawa has a more moderate view. "Brazilians have the right to create anything they want in any language they want," Miyazawa said. "The problem is to invade forums with specific languages and write in Portuguese. Brazilians are still learning how to behave in the Net."

This posits a dilemma: if English is no longer the language of the majority on Orkut, what reasonable rationale could there be for asking Brazilian users to use English in non-Brazilian-specific forums, rather than asking English-speakers to learn Portuguese (the new majority language)? Not so much on one web site (where the management could, in theory, dictate the site's language) but on the internet at large. I wonder how long it will be until (American) English is displaced as the global language and Americans/Australians/Britons have to learn another language (be it Portuguese, Chinese or something else) to engage in the intellectual mainstream of internet discourse, or else become increasingly marginalised and ghettoised?

There are 2 comments on "A taste of otherness":

Posted by: mitchao http:// Sun Jul 18 22:39:32 2004

I think that the automatic translators as Babelfish in shows the real future to them of a communication in line.

Posted by: Alexander http://asseptic.org/433 Mon Jul 19 19:05:09 2004

Brazilians are idiots and should be banned from the internet.

Take it from me, I understand what the pricks say.

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