Spotting the future in languages other than English: a waypoint check

Languages are, to many of us, an important heritage and a marker of identity. And yet, there’s no denying that the vast majority of the Spot The Future discussion has happened in English, despite the website providing support for multiple languages and despite very few of us being native speakers of Shakespeare’s language. Today I delved into our web analytics to put some numbers to this impression, taking the last month as a sample.

  • There are no posts, nor comments written in Armenian.
  • There are 5 posts in Arabic – two of which were apparently written in Arabic first, then translated into English later.
  • There is 1 post written in Georgian. 
  • There are 8 comments in Arabic
  • There is 1 comment written in Georgian (by me, with Google Translate – so I guess that does not count)
  • Over the past month, our server has served 585 pages in Arabic over a total of 4,500 visits coming from Egypt (13%) during the same period; and exactly 100 in Georgian, over a total of 3,244 coming from Georgia (3%). 

The numbers of pageviews are driven by the browser’s language: if you are viewing a page that happens to have an Arabic translation and your browser is in Arabic, the website will detect this and serve you the Arabic version.

The data seem to be saying that English is now a European lingua franca from the Atlantic to the Urals; as far as Egypt goes, however, an English-only debate might be missing out. My hunch is that it comes down to “big” vs. “small” languages. Arabic is one of the Big Seven, and you can travel far and wide while never leaving its sphere of influence – something that is clearly not true of, say, Finnish, but even Italian or Thai.

Amy thoughts?