The trend online is to stick to more global languages like English, Spanish or German, but does this translate to the internet killing native languages faster? And if yes, what can we do about it?
It is important to note first and foremost that there is a distinct difference between how a language dies in the real world and how it fails online or on the world wide web.
It is really simple; a language fails in the real world when there are not enough people living who speak it anymore. On the other hand, a language for web use has to work its way up from nothing to being useful or viable.
The climb is not an easy one. It would indeed translate to a need for apps or web pages to be localized for the specific language or languages, which will often involve more resources than a small time developer possesses.
Two basic things especially point to the fact that the internet may indeed be killing native languages;
- Communication online sticks to more global languages and the younger generation spends a huge amount of time on there, the possibility that they begin to see native languages as dated and old exists.
- The online community undoubtedly provides a larger marketplace and for this reason, global languages are replacing native languages for specific functions like commerce and literature.
A 2013 paper ‘Digital Language Death‘ by researcher András Kornai takes a wider scope to this concept and concludes that worldwide, only 5% of all languages are in use digitally, which means that 95% of the languages of the world are failing or are non-existent online.
Some parts of Africa already have a problem handing down their languages in the real world to the next generation. This next generation is meanwhile engaged online, making use of one or more of the global languages to interact with a wider circle of people.
The internet killing native languages faster is not a far fetched concept because the internet is indeed homogenizing communication.
It is therefore our lot to ensure that we impart carefully the value of native languages to each generation. Passionate local developers can also join the fight of preservation by creating thriving digital communities that will interact in our local languages and serve as a haven. Maybe then we can avoid the possibility of the internet totally killing native languages.