Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bill Gates Continues To Take Over The World

If you’ve always longed to talk to your computer in the same language that the mighty Sapa Inca used to command his empire, then at last your dreams have been fulfilled. You can now download a patch that will translate the Windows menus and the like to Quechua, the native language of millions of Andeans. Few of these people have computers, but in time, they can be banging their heads and screaming in frustration as once again, their software crashes for no apparent reason. You can even get stickers to convert your keyboard to Quechua – here it is still August and your Christmas shopping worries are over! There’s one quote in the CNN story though that worries me just a bit:

"More than anything, I was surprised," said 21-year-old Dilma Arancibia, a Quechua speaker invited to a Thursday preview of the program. "If they hadn't done this with Quechua, and if we don't teach it to our children, the language would definitely cease to exist."
While Mr. Gates thankfully does not yet have the power to make a language spoken by millions disappear, Arancibia is correct – languages left out of of the computing world are threatened. So I’m ambivalent – kudos to Microsoft for taking this step, but let’s not forget that the Empire is never altruistic!

Hat tip to The Latin Americanist.

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There's an anthropologist at the University of Florida who has been converting computers to endangered indigenous languages for about twenty years. Well, he might not be doing it any more, but he started when the internet was line edit and we called it "bitnet."

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