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World: Internet Is Multi-lingual But Mostly Speaks English

Washington, 19 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The first major study on language distribution on the Internet indicates that English, by a large margin, is the most used language on home pages.

The recently published study was conducted by Alis Technologies, a Canadian company which develops and markets software for global corporate communications and the Internet in over 90 languages, and the Internet Society, a non-governmental international organization which supports the coordination of the Internet and its technologies and applications.

The study focused on seventeen of the world's most used languages, employing sophisticated language recognition and analysis software. It found that more than 82 percent of all home pages on the Internet are in the English language. German is a distant second, with 4 percent; Japanese with 1.6 percent; French with 1.5 percent; and Spanish with 1.1 percent.

The Czech language came in 12th place with 0.3 percent of home pages on the Internet. It was trailed by Russia which came in in 14th place with only 0.1 percent.

An interesting conclusion was that of the seventeen languages featured in the study, Chinese, the language of more than one billion people, did not register enough home pages on the Internet to rate a percentage. Serbo-Croatian, another language included in the study, also did not register a percentage.

The study is somewhat limited since it clearly could not include the large number of web servers that are protected, hidden or not visible to the general public. However, the team that conducted the survey says it investigated more than 30 million potential addresses and is continuing to update and refine the techniques to provide a more accurate accounting.

The other languages included in the study were Swedish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, and Malay.

Kathleen Levesque, a public relations manager for Alis Technologies told RFE/RL that the company decided to do the study after hearing people cite unconfirmed statistics about language distribution on the Internet.

Levesque said: "People were saying that the French language comprised of five percent of all home pages on the Internet, but they couldn't back it up. When we realized there was no known study done on this topic, we decided to do it ourselves."

Levesque said that the team only investigated home pages and did not research the number of links in different languages that might be connected to the particular page.

"That's a future project," said Levesque. "We'd like to go beyond the home page to the web site itself and determine how many languages are hidden behind the initial English-language page."

Levesque said the study is important because 90 percent of the world's population does not have English as a first language.

"We'd like to bring the study up to include all of the 90 languages that Alis currently supports," said Levesque.

She added that among those languages supported by Alis are Polish, Ukrainian, Belarussian, Romanian and Bulgarian.