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Understanding the role of English in the global blogosphere

Anglophones don’t appear to be interested in materials produced in English from other linguistic spheres.

In spite of promotion (which we couldn’t be more grateful for) by figures like John Robb, Michel Bauwens, and Kevin Carson, The P2P mode of production has more readers in Esperanto than in English.

When Nat saw the video of Tim Morley at TEDx, it caught her ear that the parents of the children who were recieving classes in Esperanto were concerned, and asked, “What are you teaching my child? Is that Spanish?”

And, of course, we’d already taken note that on lots of blogs and institutions in the P2P world that we’re close with encourage readers to translate their content into other languages, but never to translate content from other languages into English, not even through the horror that is Google Translate, not even just to keep up on what topics are being discussed (for example, in the Greek blogosphere in the middle of the bailout mobilizations). It’s nothing new. We’ve also seen it in the media when, for example, they prioritized three English-speaking Iranian twitterers over tens of thousands of bloggers. The immediacy there is not a good excuse when there’s a good number of Farsi-speakers in the US and Great Britain, and some of the newspapers themselves have journalists who are native speakers.

And another interesting point — according to what we’ve seen on Twitter, lots of Spanish speakers discovered our manifesto in English. In other words, English is beginning to centralize the dissemination of content, not just between linguistic spheres, but also within them. Curious, isn’t it?

This is all facts, not judgments.

Now let’s imagine that the rest of us accept that communication in developing debates in different languages takes place in English. Right away, that would mean accepting the centralizing role of the Anglophone blogosphere and an indisputable inequality (with an obvious background of global and class-based origins) in any community that depended on its  bilingual with English members to relate to the outside world. But, here’s the surprising thing!! It would seem that’s not enough. You can have the best thinkers, you can publish regularly in English… and in spite of the theoretically greater number of speakers, it won’t work, but a simplified English will end up substituting for your mother tongue, even in the articulation of your relationship with the environment that speaks your same language or one that’s very similar.

That’s what our experience seems to point to, as well as the experiences of more than a few comments we’ve received over the years from people and collectives that have experienced English as the supposed international language in Europe. In spite of the constant, generous guidance from our friends in the P2P world and the generosity of Steve Herrick and his interpreters’ cooperative, our blog in English hasn’t generated one single relationship, or one single contribution to Las Indias. That’s the opposite of what’s happened to us with Esperanto, which appears to have more impact, in spite of having a total number of speakers (two million) that’s almost ridiculous compared to English. But that’s a different point, and it deserves a different analysis.

Translated from the original (in Spanish).

«Understanding the role of English in the global blogosphere» recibió 6 desde que se publicó el Lunes 10 de Septiembre de 2012 . Si te ha gustado este post quizá te gusten otros posts escritos por David de Ugarte.

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