According to the Bible, there was a time when all people on earth spoke one language, and people began building the Tower of Babel to reach the heavens, which was in open defiance of God’s wishes. To stop these efforts, God made everybody speak different languages so that no one could understand each other. Because of the new language barrier, work on the tower halted and it remained unfinished. As with the Tower of Babel, language differences can be a barrier in technology, as almost 95% of people in the world are non-native English speakers.
Two approaches to tackling the challenge of language barriers preventing knowledge decentralization are to force everybody to learn the same language, or change the technology to support different languages. In the world of free and open source, Fedora, GNOME, KDE, LibreOffice, and Mozilla are a few of the many projects working toward supporting different languages. A variety of projects are helping to create information- and communication-related tools and technologies in languages that diverse communities of users can understand. Almost all major open source projects are working with more than 100 languages. Thousands of volunteers around the world contribute to localization projects to help break down communication barriers.
In early September, I attended one such gathering of volunteers at Sathyabama University in Chennai, India. About 150 participants of three different languages - Hindi, Telugu, and Tamil - attended the TechnoSummit2014. Dyvik Chenna, Arun Prakash, Chandrakant Dhutadmal, Naresh Kumar, Anthuvan Jerald, Franklin Francis, and Shreyas Narayanan were a few of the attendees who helped make the event a great success. See Franklin's event report for more about the gathering.
I feel proud that I am small part of the great work being done to break down language barriers in technology. Check back on this community blog for updates on the efforts people are making to close the digital divide in the areas of GILT (globalization [g11n], internationalization [i18n], localization [l10n], and translation). Let me know if you have stories to share.