We were asked by @turutarena what we think of the role of languages in distributed social networks. The central idea is that false linguas francas, like English in Europe or Spanish the Iberian Peninsula, drive recentralization. They grant an undeserved power to native speakers and perfectly bilingual people, and above all, to a set of conversations and a particular blogosphere, and the whole interconnection between debates comes to depend on them.
In other words, if we only inform ourselves through the Anglophone blogosphere about what’s being debated in other linguistic environments, the reborn power of a few to filter, the capacity to make visible or invisible, reappears at the global level, recreating the biased map of the world that the media transmit. It’s not even intentional. It is no coincidence that, in the narrative of the world that emerges from Global Voices, or even from the P2P Foundation’s blog, Anglophone places and environments weigh more. It’s a simple matter of of costs.
What to do about this?
- Strengthen intercomprehension, starting with dialectal continuums: every person gains freedom and the power to speak in their native language in exchange for the effort to learn enough of others’ languages to understand them in their most common forms.
- Take on multilingualism as an objective to meet, both in what we publish and in what we read.
Our feeds aren’t limited to English and Western Latin. We read in French and Italian, within the Latin dialectal continuum, and we use automatic translators so as not to lose too much ground in Euskera [Basque] and German. And we keep expanding our sources. In what we publish, we’ve begun with English, thanks to the generous help of Steve Herrick, from interpreters.coop, and we hope that this will serve to connect us with other non-Anglophone areas where we can find new allies to launch new editions in other languages.