You are here

Tamil English Multilingual Web Interface Design

Study Project
April, 2005

Imagine your self with out the knowledge of English or other modern languages. How will you use a computer? How can you e-mail a friend, browse the Internet, or listen to MP3 on line? You can not. In some cases the limitation extends to entire societies who lack the Information and Communication Technological (ICT) infrastructure needed to support computing in their respective languages. Just like reading, writing, and numeracy, computing is a sphere of modern life that no human can afford to ignore. Thus, there is an urgent need to accommodate and develop technologies to support multilingual computing.

Today's Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) were primarily developed by and for English speakers. English is the defacto international language. It is the language of science, technology, commerce, diplomacy and popular culture. The prevailing dominance of America, England, Canada, and Australia in today's world order will sustain and expand English. However, the world is diverse with thousands of languages. Cultural and linguistic diversity must be preserved as they posses "solutions to problems that have not yet been resolved in the metropolitan societies and languages" [G1]. Valuable knowledge and culture is invested in each language, and a language can not be preserved and expanded with out adequate information and communication technological infrastructure.

United Nations Educational, Science, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports and responds to the need to develop multilingual ICT. It reports that "Thousands of languages worldwide are absent from Internet content and there are no tools for creating or translating information into these excluded tongues. Huge sections of the world’s population are thus prevented from enjoying the benefits of technological advances and obtaining information essential to their wellbeing and development."[G2]

UNESCO tries to responds to the need for ICTs with its "Recommendation concerning the Promotion and Use of Multilingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace" for its member governments. Also, projects like "Initiative B@bel", and Community Multimedia Centers develop ICTs.

Even healthy languages with numerous speakers and vast resources such Hindi, Chinese, Arabic, and Russian are slow to adopt to technological developments, while thousands of minor languages simply do not possess any capacity. This is particularly true in India, which houses about 850 languages including 18 official languages. For instance, majority of the Indian websites are in English. Moreover, "Brahmi-origin scripts users in South-East Asia and Indic scripts users occupy 22% of the world population have just 0.3% of Internet access." [G3]. Although, the limited access is due to economics, the language factor is certainly a significant barrier.

In this wide social, economical, and cultural context is the technological issue of developing multilingual (Tamil/English) multimedia web interfaces, the focus of this study project. Human computer interaction is perhaps the core issue in multilingual computing, and interface is the junction of that interaction. Thus, focusing on interface design will lead to the exploration of variety of technological issues related to multilingual computing in a guided and finite manner.

In particular, this study project consists of two main parts. Part I surveys Tamil Computing as a case study of Multilingual Computing (with emphasis on Multimedia issues). The purpose of the part I is to become aware of the issues in multilingual computing. Part II builds upon that awareness and explores more specific language related issues in building a multilingual web interface by implementing a Tamil English web interface.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer