Polyglot Problems on Social Networks

Tower of babel


I like the paint of the Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel, which is also the very same image used for the book by Paul Graham “Hackers and Painters”. The tower of Babel is a biblical story meant to explain the origin of the different languages. The story says that in an ancient time all the people around the world used to speak the same language but this allowed them to organize themselves to build a tower that could reach the sky, so in order to solve this minor bug, God decided to make people speak different languages in order to create a conflict so that they could not understand each other and then they would be unable to organize themselves to build this tower.

Having this issue created by God, it happens that I can speak three languages and that I like to write in Spanish and English, but I always have faced problems with the fact that the social networks lack of any support for people that writes in more that one language. For example I follow different game developers from Japan that write on twitter but sometimes their accounts are full of tweets in Japanese and just a few ones are written in English, it would be incredible to have a way for tagging your post for an specific language and also as a reader you should be able to filter all the languages that you don’t understand.

I decided to google for any solution regarding tweeter accounts with tweets in different languages and I ended up with a post by Konstatin Kovshenin “A Proposal to Solve the Bilingual Tweeting Problem” from back 2011. It’s really incredible that non of this companies behind the global social networks have not asked themselves about this multilingual problem by now. I mean even HTML takes on account web pages with different language content with metatags and hreflang attributes. Most of this companies have worried themselves about the interface localization problems but I don’t see any clear solution for the multilingual content produced by the users. In the case of twitter it could be as easy as adding some kind of hashtag or even a different symbol to tag a tweet as been written in a particular language.

I think it’s a problem that is easy to solve and that it would improve the user experience of the popular social networks, specially Twitter and LinkedIn.


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