More non-English speakers use the internet. Many more languages and scripts are now supported by computer software. The internet is used for local information. Some major uses, such as eCommerce (Amazon; eBay) are mainly national. Many people use the internet for informal communication with friends and family. The internet links diasporic linguistic communities.
Declining use of English on the internet, based on data from the Latin American NGO Funredes, is more in formal contexts such as chat rooms than in corporate emails, and in contexts where everyone shares a first language. In other words, the sociolinguistics of the internet is looking more like that of more conventional modes of communication.
News media offer news in English, and the languages in which global news is provided.
When Al Jazeera started broadcasting from its base in Qatar at the end of 1996, it triggered a transformation of the international news media. By providing an independent source of news about events in the Middle East, it managed to discomfort equally both western governments and those in neighbouring Arab states.
Arabic suddenly became an important language in which to present world news.
A rival news channel, Al Arabiya, began transmitting in 2003 from Dubai, with Saudi backing. In early 2004, Al Hurra, a new Arabic news channel funded by the US government began transmitting to 22 Arab countries from its Washington studios.
The BBC, in a major restructuring of its overseas operations in 2005, announced that it would also be starting a new Arabic TV channel in 2007.
Latin America launched its own, Spanish language, rival to CNN when, on 31 October 2005, Telesur began full broadcasting from Caracas. The network’s Uruguayan director, Aram Aharonian, promised Telesur would ‘see Latin America with Latin American eyes, not foreign eyes’.
English, however, remains the preferred language for global reach. Al Jazeera plans to go global in English, establishing regional headquarters in London, Washington and Kuala Lumpur. By the end of 2005, its English website had become a major source of news for American internet users and its new English language TV channel started broadcasting in spring 2006. Russia’s new government-funded, English-language 24-hour TV channel ‘Russia Today’ began broadcasting in December 2005, to North America, Europe and Asia. Even France’s new global channel, due by the end of 2006, will broadcast in both French and English, following the successful bilingual model of the German international channel, Deutsche Welle. And a new pan-African news channel – using French and English – is planned.