December 29, 2010

Is The Internet Moving Towards Chinese?

While English may currently be the international language of business and commerce, it may soon be taking a backseat to Chinese, which could soon take English's place as the most dominant language on the Internet.

An infographic making its way around the Internet showcases the growing prominence of Chinese users on the Web, and that Chinese may be the dominant language on the world wide web in less than five years.

The rise of the Chinese language is no shock given the population of China. According to tech blog The Next Web (TNW), which created the infographic, China gained an additional 36 million Internet users last year bringing the country to a total of 440 million Web users in all. Currently there are 536 million English speaking users online, according to figures from Internet World Stats.

Greg Sterling, contributing editor of Search Engine Land, doesn't see such a straightforward takeover of the Internet by the Chinese language, however.

"Chinese will never replace English as the 'official' language of the Internet," Sterling told FoxNews.com. "This is clearly based on raw numbers and the size of China's Internet population." The sheer number of users will not be enough to usurp the cultural significance of English.

"That's because the world speaks English while few other than Chinese nationals speak Chinese," said Sterling.

The Next Web informational chart emphasizes China's relatively low worldwide penetration -- meaning the nation's growth potential remains high for some time. If these growth rates stay consistent, Chinese could become the dominant language on the internet in less than five years, TNW said.

While Chinese has the great potential in becoming the dominant language online, one major factor will prevent it from taking hold: censorship. "The censored and still-closed nature of the Chinese Internet further argues against Chinese taking over the virtual world," Sterling said.

David Graddol, a British applied linguist and broadcaster, has been researching global English issues and its impact for more than a decade. In a recent report on the future of the language, Graddol noted a key trend, that "Asia, especially India and China, probably now holds the key to the long-term future of English as a global language."

Graddol warned that English, as a native-speaking language, "is falling in the world league tables." He said it (English) "has slipped to fourth place, where its position will become challenged by Arabic in the middle of the present century."

By then the Internet landscape could be founded on another language, said Sterling. "In 50 years that may be different and everyone may be talking Chinese (Mandarin) as a second language -- as the world does with English now," he added. 


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