Technology vs language learning

While keeping up with my fair share of technology news, I come across the odd article on language learning and how technology is helping us in this field. The question is helping us with what? While one side is offering different ways to assist us with language learning itself (Mango, Rosetta Stone, LiveMocha, etc), the dark side, as I will deem it, is taking away the need to actually learn anything.

This darker side (usually promoted by Google) encourages the use of technology over the study of another language, so that we may take a picture of a menu or street sign in another language (see article link above) instead of actually knowing what the sign or menu says because we have put hard work into studying that langauge. Additionally, there are advances in translation software, helped along by crowd-sourced corrections, that practically render knowing another language for business or pleasure obsolete. Team that with the fact so many of us are walking around with mini computers in our pockets which are wired to the Internet and for the would-be budding lingophile, the magic comes from someone else’s knowledge rather than our own. As icing on the cake, Google is hard at work on voice-to-voice translation technology as well.

For the more beautiful living langauges among us, such as Portuguese, where does that leave us? It will most-likely leave us with a population of would-be language lovers who visit Brazil without the need to place any effort into understanding the intricacies of its culture, much less the language because their smartphone puts the magic of language learning at the tips of their fingers rather than on the tips of their tongues.

For more on the subject, see the comments section for a follow-up discussion.

Brazilians in bed…with Google

Brazilian Internet users spent close to one-third of their time online on Google’s sites in July, according to a study by comScore last Monday. The search giant’s sites, which include email, videos, social networks and maps, control 29.8% of the average Brazilian Internet user’s time.

The study focused on the presence of Google in Brazil and in India. The Brazilian percentage is three times larger than the average. India came in second place, registering an index of 28.9%. Ireland came in third, with 15.9%.

“Google became a dominant Internet brand in these markets and its sucess seems to range from searches to other areas of the web such as social networks,” affirmed comScore in a press release.

According to the study, Google sites captured 89.5% of the search market in Brazil. Orkut took 96% of Internet users social networking time in the country and Youtube came in with 91.6%. Meanwhile, the company’s mapping service took 70.9%.

ComScore additionally stated that the photo-sharing site Picasa, also from Google, came in second place in Brazil in terms of unique visitors and with a mere 8.9% of the amount of time consumed in this category. Google’s email service remained in second place as well in June, with 9.7% of time spent on email services.Source (in PT)

My Take

Among those who follow such trends, even as an armchair enthusiast, it is well-known that the younger generation of Brazilians are quite addicted to the Internet (although the same could be said of ‘the youger generation’ the world over). While I make it my ‘business’ to be online, if I didn’t have these sites, my time spent online would diminish by a good 85%. All in all, I can just say as a word to the wise, be mindful. I never knew moderation to be a bad thing (…except for that one time, ah, I digress).

Googling Brazil

I’d like to share a few Google tips for “googling” stuff on Google (for the inside joke, go here) in reference to Brazil. First, I’d like to tell you how to search only Brazilian sites. For that, just conclude your search term with “site:br” (ex. escolas de inglês site:br) and you will only be shown English schools on Brazilian sites. Keep in mind, just by adding this tag, it doesn’t mean all the results will come back in Portuguese, it just means they will be hosted on Brazillian domains. If you want to search only for things in Portuguese, go to ‘Preferences‘ and there, you will be able to select ‘Prefer pages written in these languages’ (under which you’ll be able to select Portuguese).

Here are two other helpful tips for searching on Google (and almost anywhere else, for that matter). If you want a specific term to show up in your results and your search involves multiple words, you just need to place them entre aspas (in quotes). Ex. “Portuguese classes in Miami”. The second tip is for when you find a term in the results that you want to exclude from the search results such as in the last example, let’s say you want to exclude results that specify South Beach, you would then enter the same thing as in the last example, plus “-south beach”. Ex. “Portuguese classes in Miami” -south beach (for which you will find zero results, because there are no Portuguese classes offered in South Beach, according to Google).

Happy searching!

Google basing Latin American hub in Brazil

“According to the Brazilian news magazine Exame, Google has made Brazil the center of its Latin American operations, placing former country director Alexandre Hohagen at the helm.

Google is understood to have chosen Brazil for its superior regional performance. While the Mountain View, California-based search giant doesn’t comment on regional numbers, the article claims that Brazil is Google’s fastest growing market (hard to verify, but it’s certainly one of the fastest growing), generating an estimated $500 million per year in revenues. This is all the more impressive considering the Brazilian office was opened just three years ago and has only 200 employees….” (more on the link below)

Orkut & The Brazilian Invasion

(Questo articolo in “Italiano”)

Orkut is a social networking service which is run by Google and named after its creator, an employee of Google – Orkut Büyükkökten (don’t ask). The service, which started in 2004, states that it was designed to help users meet new friends and maintain existing relationships. Orkut is similar to other social networking sites, except that it is the most visited website in Brazil. The initial target market for Orkut was the United States, but the majority of its users are in Brazil. In fact, as of May 2008, 43.9% of the traffic comes from Brazil, followed by India with 38.8%.

The reason behind the high numbers of Brazilians on Orkut? The Brazilian Internet Phenomenon. It’s a term used to describe the massive adoption by Brazilians of an Internet service exceeding the number of members of the original nationality of the service. A possible reason for this is shown on a recently an IBOPE/NetRatings study that revealed that they overtook the U.S. in terms of time surfing on the internet and, today, are the people who spend the most time on the internet.

Other services which reflect this phenomenon also?
MSN Messenger

And its being seen with IRC, Blogger, Gmail & Skype too…so if you are looking for Brazilians online, now you know where to find them.