Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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Bilingualism and social networking

I know that quite a few of my LJ friendslist speak languages other than English, either as their first language or because they have learned another language to a reasonable level. I've been learning Welsh for a long time and I'm getting to the point where I want to actually use it, both speaking face-to-face with people locally, but also engaging with other Welsh speakers on the net.

However, the question is, how? Social networking doesn't make this easy. There are Welsh language blogs and there are people who tweet in Welsh, but there are no bilingual spaces. (At least I don't think so and if there are, I haven't found them yet.) Languages therefore end up in monolingual ghettos and in this case a major world language like Spanish, French or German is no better off than a minority language like Welsh.

Strangely, the best place I've found so far for operating bilingually -- multilingually even! -- is Flickr. Each group can have its primary language, but people do comment on pictures in the photographer's stream in other languages. As long as someone is keen, they can set up a group dedicated to any language they like. I am free to add a description of my photos in as many languages as I am capable of writing in. Admittedly, text is not the main medium of Flickr, which is a place to share photos, so anyone who doesn't read a language in the photo's description can skip over it and read the bit they can understand -- or just look at the picture.

The key there is skip over the text. It's all very well when it's a small amount of text beneath a photo that probably stands alone anyway. When it comes to posts turning up in your Friendslist or Twitter stream in a language that you don't understand, it immediately becomes more problematical. Yes, you can scroll on past and because Tweets are so short, I've never found it a problem there and you can always paste the text into Google Translate if you want the gist of what was said, but I don't want to impose posts in Welsh on people who I know can't understand them, hence having a separate LJ and Twitter account for writing in Welsh.

Why am I posting about this now? Well, if I take to Google+ and start to find it useful, am I going to have two Google+ accounts as well?

The circles on Google+ actually have the potential to allow people to post bilingually, in whichever language seems to fit the post best. I had been mulling this over and was groping towards a solution, when I came across this comment. (via a link about using pseudonyms on Google+, which apparently is OK, though it may have to be verified by a human being before the account goes live).

Anyway, commenter warped-ellipsis is actually talking about preventing stalkery people from reading your posts, but their suggestion number 4 solves the multi-language problem too. If Google+ allowed you to prevent people from reading particular posts, I could have a circle called something like "People who don't understand Welsh" and add all my non-Welsh speaking friends to it. Posts could then be made public (but excluding people in the PWDUW circle) so that any random passing Welsh speaker could read it, but I would not annoy my friends by making them scroll past stuff they don't understand.

It would also have other applications, perhaps to discuss subjects that some of one's friends list might find triggery, eg diet and exercise (no cut tags on Google+ of course). Or for spoilery discussion of TV series etc. Or even to plan a surprise party. :)

Yes, I know I could have a circle called "People who speak Welsh", but that puts those posts into a private enclave that passing strangers would be unable to read and I may hope they would appeal to a wider readership.

Does this make any sense?

ETA: It looks as though this is a feature that other people are asking for, but I had problems accessing the Google+ discussion area so haven't been able to add my bit.

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