Will your phone kill your local language?

I observed that poor people in India (who are mainly non-English speaking)  and non-English speakers know English digits but do not really know the numbers in their own (local) language.
This seemed strange to me, and so I started observing this phenomenon to get to the bottom of it.
What I realized was that these people knew 0 through 9 well, because of their phone (even beggars in India seem to have a mobile phone – they’re so ubiquitous).

They did not change the language of their phone; they obviously don’t know how to do that or not know that it is even possible.
Now, the default language of a phone is English, which means that most phone numbers are in English.
And to call a number one sees English numbers on the numeric keypad.


I recently experimented with changing the language and the region of my phone.
And though the language and script changed, the words for application, installing, etc. were transliterations and not translations as such (which means that the English words like application, etc. were the same words but in a different script.)

Also, many applications had English titles in their title pictures, and were mostly in English.

This means that anyone using a phone (and that means everyone) will be exposed to English a lot, and will be forced to know English to use it.

There was a backlash to English number-plates on cars where some nationalist parties used the local language and not English, but this was possible because the hands of the local transport authority were tied.

But this is a global phenomenon and the phone companies are global giants.

If the local companies like Micromax in India or Huawei in China want to be global players, their products will be in English, so that more people will use them.

Now, expand this to the Web. Facebook (which everyone and their dog seems to know and use) and other social sites have language options, but who really uses them.
Same with Wikipedia. And in fact, many websites are only in English.

These things kind of standardize on the use of English, and what that means is that local languages will be lost, as communication goes global, and English kind of becomes the standard language.


About Ra

Software Engineer (worked in corporations to healthcare start-ups), Geek, Musician, Artist, Fellow Human - living in the covergence space of healthcare, software, interaction design, the quantified self and genetics, music and spirituality
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