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The Language of Twitter

So if you are new to the world of twitter it can seem a little like you’ve just landed in another country. It’s got its own language, culture, people and strange sights. To help you enjoy this new world and make best use of its marketing and social opportunities I’ve prepared a very brief guide to the language of twitter. I hope it helps you to take advantage of this wonderful new world. Read more

Do You Tweet With an Accent?

It’s amazing how much information can be conveyed in a mere 140 characters, even without your knowledge. For example, did you know that analyzing your tweets can show where you come from?

In fact, in a study last year by Carnegie Mellon University, researchers found that they could narrow down almost any individual Twitter user’s location to within 300 miles based solely on the language they used in their tweets.

Now,  a new study from Ohio State lingistics grad student Brice Russ has demonstrated that Twitter can successfully be used to map linguistic variations across the United States. He examined three markers of regional American dialects: the use of Coke, pop and soda to describe a sweetened carbonated beverage; the use of “hella” to mean “very,” and the use of phrases like “the car needs washed” or “the computer needs fixed.”

He found that Twitter data could be used to map out which parts of the US these variations were used in. His paper may even have a revealed a trend: the “needs X-ed” construction seems to be moving southward compared to previous analyses.

Can analyzing posts on social networks replace traditional linguistic fieldwork? No. As Mr. Russ told the New York Times, “The ‘bobbasheelys’ and ‘crawdads’ of English don’t always show up on Twitter often enough to be mapped on a large scale.” (“Bobbasheely” means “close friend,” while “crawdad” means “Crayfish.”)

Still, it does have some advantages as a way to collect supplemental data.  In his paper [PDF], Russ notes that “Twitter is a very promising source for studying regional variation” because “data can be collected easily and effectively without interviews or supervision.”

Interestingly, earlier work by British linguist David Crystal found that aside from differences in British and American spelling, tweets as a whole “aren’t very regional distinctive,” and that people were more likely to use local dialect in their Facebook posts. It’s enough to make you wonder if the amount of dialect a person uses in their tweets varies depending on whether they’re American or British?

Image CreditAttribution Some rights reserved by topgold

Indigenous Tweets Collects Minority Language Tweets

Despite Twitter’s recent efforts at making the site more usable for non-English speakers, it’s probably one of the last places you’d expect to find people using minority and endangered languages to communicate. However, as a new website called Indigenous Tweets illustrates, that’s clearly not the case.

Kevin Scannell, a Computer Science professor from the US who created the website, believes that Twitter can even help preserve languages that are struggling. The website searches for tweets in minority languages across the globe, then indexes the tweets and the Twitter accounts they came from. The site is interesting no matter what language you speak, but if you speak one of the 68 languages indexed, it will also help you connect with other Twitter users who speak your language. Read more

Multilingual SEO

Multilingual SEO

If you’re a native English speaker, then you may believe that the internet is dominated by the English language. Almost all of the computer code, social networking, e-commerce and news sites that are most popular with English speakers were developed in the English-speaking world, and they mesh seamlessly with the language. However, while slightly more than half the web’s content is still written in English, that won’t be true for long. Only around a quarter of internet users have English as their primary language and internet usage of this demographic is growing at a much faster rate.

Most people require or prefer web content that’s written in their native language. For international businesses to really engage with customers they need to have versions of their websites written in each of the languages their customers speak. In some parts of the world, even local businesses have to engage with more than one language group. Read more

Plurk post

Microblogging Service Plurk Attracts Asian Users

When it comes to microblogging, Twitter is king. However, according to this article on PC World, its sovereignty is being threatened in several Asian countries by upstart microblogging service Plurk, which offers the support for local languages and alphabets that Twitter largely lacks. Right now, Plurk is offered in 33 languages, including English, Chinese, Russian, and Hindi. It also offers support for European languages like Catalan and Irish. Compare that to Twitter, which only offers 5 languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese.

According to PC World, Twitter founder Biz Stone has stated that company finds it difficult to offer localized services for Asian languages, which is why Japanese is the only Asian language Twitter supports.

However, Plurk appears to have overcome these obstacles with no problems. The company handles translations by enlisting teams of its users to translate. In PC World, Plurk’s founder Alvin Woon noted that this system made the translation process surprisingly fast, saying :

“When Plurk first launched, we had a translation system where the whole system was translated into 25 different languages in two weeks, and it’s all done by our users…I’ve been surprised at how many people want to translate Plurk into their own language.”

Overall, Twitter still gets much more traffic than Plurk. However, looking at the respective popularity of each service in different countries illustrates what a profound effect local language support can have. For example,  according to PC World, Plurk beats out Twitter for the title of top-ranking microblogging site in Taiwan, and it is also extremely popular in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The lesson here is simply that customers want to use products and services that speak their language. Translation services are important for international companies because they help increase customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

Teaching Language With Twitter

Your mental image of a knight probably includes weapons like a sword or a lance. However, a university professor in the United States just earned a knighthood using more modern weapons, specifically Twitter, Facebook and Skype.  According to WACH, a local Fox News affiliate, Dr. Lara Lomicka Anderson will be knighted by the French government for incorporating these technologies into her foreign language classes.

Dr. Anderson teaches French to students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She is being made a Chevalier of the Order des Palmes Academiques for her innovative teaching techniques that include the use of tools like Twitter as well as international travel. As Dr. Anderson explained to WACH,  “One way I do that is through a partnership with a school in France located outside of Paris, and we use all of these technologies to promote a collaborative partnership among students.”

The two schools partner so that the US students can learn French and the French students can learn English. Each student is assigned a partner from the other school. Social networking technologies like Facebook, Skype and Twitter become the glue that hold these partnerships together, giving students a convenient way to practice languages with each other.  After a year’s worth of study, the American students then travel to France to meet their study partners “in real life.”

The Ordre des Palmes Académiques was instituted by Napoleon Bonaparte  to reward those who “advance the French language.”  This won’t be the first award Dr. Anderson has received for her work- according to a press release from the university, she was also awarded the National Award for Excellence in Technology by The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language and Cengage Learning in 2008.