It has been interesting to note that even inside the US, more and more languages start appearing in various services. Spanish is the obvious example, but at the Gilbane Boston conference we heard that e.g. a New England healthcare provider needs to think about providing information in Vietnamese and in Russian. The old saying “You can always buy in your own language, but you must sell in your customer’s language” still holds true.
Although English has become the universal second language, people still feel more comfortable dealing in their own native language. Maybe the next generation will be different (although I guess that has always been the expectation of the previous generation) and will communicate mainly with smileys – but I believe that languages will not go away.
One could assume that in the European Union with its plethora of official languages there would be a lot of language tools available. Well, there is e.g. Eurodicautom, a multilingual and searchable term bank which includes about 5.5 million entries in 48 subject fields. It continues to be available, but it is currently not updated, as it is being moved into a new database – and the latest news about it are from 2003. So one can only hope that the migration will be completed soon and the updating can continue, as new words appear in languages continuously. Just think about “truthiness”, which was chosen as Merriam-Webster’s word of the year in 2006.
There are several other multilingual general and industry-specific dictionaries available in the web, such as the European multilingual environmental glossary at
http://glossary.eea.europa.eu/EEAGlossary/. Another example is the Microsoft multilingual terminology at http://www.microsoft.com/globaldev/tools/MILSGlossary.mspx. Googling e.g. with “multilingual glossaries” or “multilingual dictionaries” brings a lot of hits to various resources.
The thing is, multilingual content management and multilingual searches start from good multilingual terminology. There will be a lot of work needed in that area, both in general and in industry- or even in company-specific dictionaries. I will follow up on this topic later.