The aims and objectives of the WLDC are wide and far-reaching and include the promotion of multilingualism in cyberspace and the maintenance and sustainability of the wealth of information about the languages of the world. Developed countries may think of the Web as ubiquitous, but there is a distinct lack of content in a majority of the world's languages.
The predominance of use of the English language in readable Web content is gradually being suppressed, but as a variety of studies have demonstrated the Web does not present a reliable surrogate for the use of languages in the world.
In a number of cases, this is because the capability for representing these languages and the variety within these languages is lacking.
The launch of a World Centre is due, in part, to a significant expansion to a series of international standards that are fundamental to a number of information systems and the need to encapsulate a broad range of linguistic and technical expertise.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) publishes the standards that result in identifiers, referred to by some as metadata such as “en” and “fr” being used in computer systems to stand for “English” and “French, respectively.
Some web search engines allow users to specialize their searches to pages that are using these language identifiers, Accoona for example.
Until this year, there were about 400 such identifiers in ISO standards; early in 2007 this number was expanded to over 7,500, and 2008 is expected to see this number expand way beyond 30,000.
The reason for this significant expansion is to allow for the identification of languages in all their written, spoken and signed varieties.
Until now, ISO standards have only catered for a small proportion of languages.
These new ISO standards provide for the ability to index and retrieve the potential content of a truly diverse and multilingual information society and for the future development of technologies with greater language-targeting features.
Work is already in progress in the Internet community through the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to make use of these emerging standards and discussions are already underway in relation to the so-called "Multilingual Internet" - described by some as a major element of the Next Generation Internet.
For more information:
* Contact : Claudio Menezes, UNESCO, Information society division: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Links :
- World Language Documentation Centre (WLDC) : www.thewldc.org
- Meeting information