RealTime IT News

Spanish Intellectuals Defend Online Spanish

The lopsided presence of English in cyberspace must end, and Spanish must take its natural place online, declared a group of Spanish intellectuals this week.

"The vast majority of content on the Internet is in English, and that is something we should correct," said Antonio Muñoz Molina, renowned author and member of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (RAE).

The Western world's second most-used language, Spanish is fifth in cyberspace, trailing behind English, French, German and Japanese. Spanish-language content constitutes only 1.5 percent of the Net.

Of more than 350 million Spanish speakers, roughly 10 million are Netizens. While Latin America's 8.5 million users dominate, 1.8 million "habitual users" are Spanish (2.5 million are considered occasional users).

"We're in a race really," said Jose Antonio Millan, philologist and writer on new media issues. Just as Swiss and Dutch printers dominated the Spanish book market in the 16th century, English-language software companies and digital content providers currently dominate Spanish online consumption.

In addition to content, Millan called for the creation of Spanish technologies, explaining that while most technology is transferable, not all English-language applications and utilities are necessarily compatible with the requirements of Spanish.

Tying the future of Spanish to cyberspace, the almost 300-year-old RAE is realizing its own an ambitious plan: to get all of its documents, dictionaries and latest rulings into a constantly evolving online database. Anyone with a Java-based navigator will be able to use either of the Academy's two access plans.

Despite the online challenge, attendees at the "The Information Society for Everyone" symposium did get votes of confidence from visiting American digerati.

"There's an openness to change here [in the Spanish entrepreneurial sector] that will be very useful," said Esther Tyson, interim chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

"You're not behind. The Internet is changing so rapidly. Each year we must reinvent," said Vinton Cerf, Internet creator and chairman of the board of the Internet Society. "You're not behind, but the time to get going is now."

The Jose Maria Aznar government is very vocal about making the Internet a development priority.