The more members the more alphabets... "Multialphabetism" in the EU

posted by Julia on 2008/01/16 23:06

[ Media and blogs ]

A conference with the title "Delivering Multialphabetism to the European citizen“ (pdf) will take place in Brussels on 31 January 2008. Topics discussed will be the introduction of multialphabetism into the EU databases and the latest developments in pan-European keyboard features. Sounds too technical?? Have you ever thought about the legal problems resulting from the fact that a name cannot be writte correctly on a keyboard or with a software not able to compose certain special characters? I had not, to be honest, and I was impressed to learn that the incompatibility of different character sets used on European computer could have other far-reaching consequences for people, such as their discrimination on the ground of their nationality and language.


"As another result, the media in Europe publish names and expressions in wrong
spelling (e.g. Potocnik and Solidarnosc instead of Potočnik and Solidarność). This
leads to disinformation of the media consumer

Web-based mailboxes are usually not capable of processing text with accented or
special characters from non-Western EU countries. So especially the young generation
of Europeans gets accustomed to writing messages without accented or special
characters or – in case of young Greeks and Bulgars – even without using their own
alphabet). This has a negative effect on their orthographic abilities and their cultural
identity and compromises all efforts of language learning."

Luckily, there is an EU High-Level Group on Multilingualism (launched by EU Commissioner Ján Figeľ in autumn 2006) which fights for a unique Unicode character set, allowing the representation of all alphabets. More information on the EU Multialphabetism website (available only in Latin alphabet for the moment, and only in English and German...). 




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