Google Quechua

Thanks to Google Quechua, Indigenous people in the Andes can now search the Web in their native tongue.


Estimates of the prevalence of Quechua vary widely. In Peru, there are thought to be 3m to 4.5m speakers, with others in Bolivia and Ecuador. The language has long been in slow decline, chiefly because the children of migrants to the cities rarely speak it. But it is now getting a lot more attention.

In recent months, Google has launched a version of its search engine in Quechua while Microsoft unveiled Quechua translations of Windows and Office. Demetrio Túpac Yupanqui, who last year translated “Don Quijote” into Quechua, recalls that a nationalist military government in the 1960s ordered that the language be taught in all public schools. It didn’t happen, because of lack of money to train teachers. By law its official use—and bilingual education—is now limited to highland areas where it is predominant.

After spending a year in Ecuador, I can tell you this: I know precisely two words of Quechua, both of which have made their way into everyday Ecuadorian parlance (at least in the sierra): 1) “chuchaqi” (which means hungover), and 2) “cha-chai” (which means cold).

Related oldie-but-goodie: Ecuadorian slang.



The New York Times’s Noam Cohen has an interesting story about efforts to advance a simplified version of English to be used around the world — what some are calling “globish.”

When its president proposed last month to ban English words like “helicopter,” “chat” and “pizza,” Iran became the latest country to try to fight the spread of English as a de facto global language.

But with interest in English around the world growing stronger, not weaker — stoked by American cultural influences and advertising, the increasing numbers of young people in developing countries and the spread of the Internet, among other factors — there are some linguists and others who say: why fight it? Instead, the argument goes, English, particularly the simpler form of the language used by most nonnative speakers, should be embraced.

Esperanto teachers world-wide must be totally bummed out by this turn of events.

The Globalization of Soccer

To the People:

The Prospect reviews superstar Senegalese footballer Patrick Vieira’s new autobiography and says it “confirms that soccer beats banking as the world’s most globalised industry.” I’d say drugs, but soccer and banking make fine choices, too.

“Vieira was only 19 and already captain of Cannes when, in 1995, he was bundled into a helicopter and flown to AC Milan’s club headquarters to sign a contract on the spot. He had no idea what the sums in Italian lire meant—not very much, it turned out—but signed anyway. His angry agent quickly negotiated a new contract, for about £300,000 a year, or four times as much as he was getting at Cannes. At Milan, Vieira rarely played. Watching the team from the stands, he got to know the Alsatian Frenchman Arsène Wenger, who was a regular spectator despite coaching in Japan at the time. When Wenger joined Arsenal, he persuaded Vieira to be his first signing. In fact, the player arrived weeks before the manager did, and was initially deposited in the reserves.”

By my count that’s a Senegalese guy captaining a French team, taken to Italy to play. He sits while in Italy, gets noticed by a French guy who works in Japan, and together they move on to England. Cool.

Full Prospect review here.


Bolivia, Evo Morales, and Market-Dominant Minorities

According to the NYT’s Juan Forero, coca-legalization proponent and indigenous coalition leader Evo Morales just might become the next president of Bolivia.

The election of Morales in Bolivia would represent the triumph of indigenous groups over the minority white elite ruling class — as well as the rejection of what’s viewed as American imperialism and the encroachment of globalization on poor people’s lives throughout the southern Andes.

This monumental shift, should it reach fruition, would mirror the central thesis of Amy Chua’s prescient tome “World On Fire”: that the world’s so-called “market-dominant minorities” — the wealthy whites, in the case of Bolivia — become enriched by globalization while the poor majority indigenous population becomes increasingly destitute and disenfranchised. Class tensions, in this scenario, are exacerbated; violence erupts.

The ascent of Morales in Bolivia, if it happens, may signal a sea change in Andean politics. Only time will tell; could Peru and Ecuador, which also have sizeable Indian populations, be next?


British Backpackers Take Call Center Jobs in India

Here’s an interesting twist on Western firms outsourcing jobs to India: British backpackers have started taking call center jobs there in order to save funds for traveling or extend their current trips.

Among the first to land in the subcontinent was Kenny Rooney, a 28-year-old from Livingston in Scotland. He had worked in a call centre at home, but after nine months in India says he does not want to return. “This is an incredible country,” he said, speaking from Bombay. “I have had a brilliant time and met people from all over the world…”

Young Britons of Indian origin are also finding the jobs offer them a chance to rediscover their roots. Among them is Hasmita Patel, who is also working in Pune. “This has been the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Ms Patel, from Leicester. “It has really allowed me to see the country and get to know people. I’ve learned so much about myself.”

(Via BoingBoing.)