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Chapter 1. ONE INTERNET; MANY VOICES > IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS ENGLISH

IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS ENGLISH

The Internet was designed to be global, but not necessarily multilingual. Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, its primary purpose was to enable English speakers to communicate with other English speakers; yet a funny thing happened to this American phenomenon—it became a global phenomenon. Increasingly, non-English speakers began using the Internet to communicate in their own languages. There were many obstacles, many of which are with us even today, but the trend was clear and accelerating. Just a few years ago, nearly two thirds of all Internet users were native English speakers Today, less than half speak English as their native language. And as shown in Figure 1.1, English is on its way from being the primary language of the Internet to just another language of the Internet.

Figure 1.1. Non-English speakers are becoming the dominant force on the Internet.

Source: Global Reach, 2001 (www.glreach.com)



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