Philip’s Vision, 1999-2009 and Beyond [UPDATED]

No language barriers on virtual worlds!

It might be so obvious that it takes a genius to point it out for us, but virtual worlds are a huge tool to overcome the language barrier, as opposed to the text-only Web. Philip gave the following example: when he came to visit the location for the interview, a Portuguese-only sim, he wandered around. Obviously all the information there is written in a language that he doesn’t understand; however, he could perfectly navigate among the content. He understood what each location on the private island was meant to do — after all, you know how to sit on a chair in SL, so long as you’ve mastered the art of point-and-click-to-sit your avatar. He understood what were billboards displaying information. Areas for live music events with a stage were obvious. The orientation area on that island, even if everything was written in Portuguese, was recognisable as an orientation area. Chill-out areas with the appropriate pose balls on romantic nooks were obvious too. So… not understanding the language is not a major handicap on a virtual world, so long as you master the interface.

Second Life is […] a world you can navigate through even though you don’t understand the […] language.

His contrasting experience was opening up a Chinese web page. The Chinese Internet is huge, accommodating hundreds of millions of users. But it’s also impossible to navigate for someone who doesn’t speak Chinese! When opening a page, you don’t have a clue if you’re at a shopping site, a web page for amateur photographers, or merely a blog. You see the hyperlinks and definitely can click on them, but they will show you more text that remains utterly incomprehensible. Most human beings only speak one language, and for them, most content on other languages will remain a secret. (Granted, we can get a clue of what we’re seeing using Google Translator.)

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