Writing the Web's Future In Numerous Languages

Page 1226

1 of 1231 DOCUMENTS

The New York Times

December 31, 2008 Wednesday

Correction Appended

Late Edition - Final

Writing the Web's Future In Numerous Languages


SECTION: Section B; Column 0; Business/Financial Desk; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 1284 words

The next chapter of the World Wide Web will not be written in English alone. Asia already has twice as many Internet users as North America, and by 2012 it will have three times as many. Already, more than half of the search queries on Google come from outside the United States.

The globalization of the Web has inspired entrepreneurs like Ram Prakash Hanumanthappa, an engineer from outside Bangalore, India. Mr. Ram Prakash learned English as a teenager, but he still prefers to express himself to friends and family members in his native Kannada. But using Kannada on the Web involves computer keyboard maps that even Mr. Ram Prakash finds challenging to learn.

So in 2006 he developed Quillpad, an online service for typing in 10 South Asian languages. Users spell out words of local languages phonetically in Roman letters, and Quillpad's predictive engine converts them into local-language script. Bloggers and authors rave about the service, which has attracted interest from the cellphone maker Nokia and the attention of Google Inc., which has since introduced its own transliteration tool.

Mr. Ram Prakash said Western technology companies have misunderstood the linguistic landscape of India, where English is spoken proficiently by only about a tenth of the population and even many college-educated Indians prefer the contours of their native tongues for everyday speech. ''You've got to give them an opportunity to express themselves correctly, rather than make a fool out of themselves and forcing them to use English,'' he said.

Only there is a shortage of non-English content and applications. So, American technology giants are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to build and develop foreign-language Web sites and services -- before local companies like Quillpad beat them to the punch and the profits.

''Gone are the days in which you can launch a Web site in English and assume that readers from around the globe are going to look to you simply because of the content you're providing,'' said Zia Daniell Wigder, a senior analyst at JupiterResearch, an online research company based in New York.

Nowhere are the obstacles, or the potential rewards, more apparent than in India, whose online population Jupiter says is poised to become the third-largest in the world after China and the United States by 2012. Indians may speak one language to their boss, another to their spouse and a third to a parent. In casual speech, words can be drawn from a grab bag of tongues.

In the last two years, Yahoo and Google have introduced more than a dozen services to encourage India's Web users to search, blog, chat and learn in their mother tongues. Microsoft has built its Windows Live bundle of online consumer services in seven Indian languages. Facebook has enlisted hundreds of volunteers to translate its social networking site into Hindi and other regional languages, and Wikipedia now has more entries in Indian local languages than in Korean.

Google's search service has lagged behind the local competition in China, and that has made providing locally flavored services a priority for the company in India. Google's initiatives in India are aimed at opening the country's historically slow-growing personal computer market, and at developing expertise that Google will be able to apply to building services for emerging markets worldwide.

''India is a microcosm of the world,'' said Dr. Prasad Bhaarat Ram, Google India's head of research and development. ''Having 22 languages creates a new level of complexity in which you can't take the same approach that you would if you had one predominant language and applied it 22 times.''

Global businesses are spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year working their way down a list of languages into which to translate their Web sites, said Donald A. DePalma, the chief research officer of Common Sense Advisory, a consulting business in Lowell, Mass., that specializes in localizing Web sites.

India -- with relatively undeveloped e-commerce and online advertising markets -- is actually lower on the list than Russia, Brazil and South Korea, Mr. DePalma said.

Mr. Ram of Google acknowledged that the company's local-language initiatives in India did not yet generate significant revenue.

But the investments, Mr. DePalma said, are smart. ''They're potentially creating the Indian advertising market,'' he said.

English simply will not suffice for connecting with India's growing online market, a lesson already learned by Western television producers and consumer products makers, said Rama Bijapurkar, a marketing consultant and the author of ''Winning in the Indian Market: Understanding the Transformation of Consumer India.''

''If you want to reach a billion people, or even half a billion people, and you want to bond with them, then you have no choice but to do multiple languages,'' she said.

Even among the largely English-speaking base of around 50 million Web users in India today, nearly three-quarters prefer to read in a local language, according to a survey by JuxtConsult, an Indian market research company. Many cannot find the content they are seeking. ''There is a huge shortage of local language content,'' said Sanjay Tiwari, the chief executive of JuxtConsult.

A Microsoft initiative, Project Bhasha, coordinates the efforts of Indian academics, local businesses and solo software developers to expand computing in regional languages. The project's Web site, which counts thousands of registered members, refers to language as ''one of the main contributors to the digital divide'' in India.

The company is also seeing growing demand from Indian government agencies and companies creating online public services in local languages.

''As many of these companies want to push their services into rural India or tier-two towns or smaller towns, then it becomes essential they communicate with their customers in the local language,'' said Pradeep Parappil, a Microsoft program manager.

The project's Web site, , offers user-edited glossaries in local languages for technology terms and words with slang meanings in social networking, like ''nudge'' and ''wink.'' (''Bhasha'' is the Hindi word for ''language.'')

Last December, Yahoo and Jagran Group, a large Hindi newspaper publisher, started , a portal in the Hindi language, the native tongue of 420 million Indians.

Yahoo, which also offers e-mail and other content in several Indian languages, says that has surpassed its expectations for user traffic.

''Localization is the key to success in countries like India,'' said Gopal Krishna, who oversees consumer services at Yahoo India.

Google recently introduced news aggregation sites in Hindi and three major South Indian languages, and a transliteration tool for writing in five Indian languages. Its search engine operates in nine Indian languages, and can translate search results from the English Web into Hindi and back.

Google engineers are also plugging away on voice recognition, translation, transliteration and digital text reading that it plans to apply to other developing countries.

Mr. Ram Prakash of Quillpad said he was inspired when friends at Google told him they had compared Quillpad with Google's transliteration tool. He said that he believed the use of local languages on the Web would soar even as more Indians strived to learn English.

''That's why we say English is not enough,'' Mr. Ram Prakash said, repeating the slogan of Quillpad. ''People want to look forward, and they want to learn English. That is all right, but English is not enough for all their needs.''







LOAD-DATE: December 31, 2008


CORRECTION-DATE: January 2, 2009

CORRECTION: A picture caption on Wednesday with an article about entrepreneurs working to make the Web available in more languages misidentified the person shown. He is Prasad Bhaarat Ram, an executive at Google India -- not Ram Prakash Hanumanthappa, an engineer who developed software to type in 10 South Asian languages.

GRAPHIC: PHOTOS: Prasad Bhaarat Ram, an executive at Google India, said the many languages of users in the country posed a challenge. (PHOTOGRAPH BY NAMAS BHOJANI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES) (pg.B1)

Google workers in Bangalore worked on Indian language script. Google introduced news sites in four Indian languages and a transliteration tool for writing in five. (PHOTOGRAPH BY NAMAS BHOJANI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES) (pg.B5) CHART: THE GLOBALIZATION OF WEB USERS: While there are more Internet users in the United States than in any other country, most new users will come from Asia, and China will surpass the U.S. by 2012, according to estimates by JupiterResearch. (pg.B5)


Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

2 of 1231 DOCUMENTS

The New York Times

December 31, 2008 Wednesday

Late Edition - Final

For Minors, Major Events


SECTION: Section B; Column 0; Sports Desk; Pg. 9

LENGTH: 1219 words


A world champion golfer lives with his family in a posh golf course community here, where a treasure of trophies and medals adorns his bedroom. Framed photographs on a nightstand capture him in midswing. An electronic putting green covers the living room floor.

Asked how many awards he had won, the champion smiled, revealing two missing front teeth.

''Um, a lot?'' he said with a giggle.

Trading cards show his likeness and statistics: Brett Sodetz, world champion. Height: 3 feet 10 inches. Weight: 50 pounds.

Age: 6.

''People think we're crazy that Brett is a world champion because he is so young,'' his mother, Nancy Sodetz, said recently. ''But we're like: 'No, it's no joke. They really have a championship for 6-year-olds.' ''

After two years of formal competition, the family's move from Chicago and more than $20,000 spent in the past year to hone his play, Brett Sodetz won the youngest age group at the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship, held over three days last summer in Pinehurst, N.C. Playing nine-hole courses totaling about 1,300 yards each, he finished seven under par to defeat a boy from Texas by a stroke. Struggling to describe what it felt like to win, he paused.

''It's cool,'' he said, grabbing a mop of blond hair with his hands and opening his blue eyes wide.

Brett, who turns 7 on Thursday and is a first grader at a local private school, has won more than 40 trophies in his career. But the world championship topped them all. There, he competed against 82 players from 12 countries, many harboring the same hope: to be the next Tiger Woods.

Dan Van Horn, an entrepreneur from Atlanta, started U.S. Kids Golf in 1997 to market custom clubs for children. Soon, he began holding tournaments for players 12 and younger. In 2001, he formed a nonprofit to handle the events. Entry fees, ranging from $45 to about $300, depending on the event's stature, brought in nearly $1.7 million last year, according to federal tax records.

There is little consensus in the sport about Van Horn's approach to developing young athletes.

The United States Golf Association, the sport's governing body in the United States, does not sanction the competitions. The youngest age group for U.S.G.A. tournaments is 12 and under. But the Professional Golfers' Association of America, the main organization for golf instruction in the United States, helps run tournaments for Van Horn and has worked with his group to foster youth golf.

Van Horn held the first world championship in 2000, with more than 200 players from 29 states. This year, 1,300 players from 47 states and 35 countries competed, he said.

''We're not overly obsessed with competition,'' Van Horn said. ''Competition is just something that motivates learning.''

Some, however, say that children like Brett Sodetz have no business competing in tournaments, let alone a world championship. They cite injury rates, psychological stress and cost as reasons to delay serious competition.

''A lot of times, the parents have the greatest intentions because they are spending a lot of time with their kids, but there is a great potential for it all to backfire,'' said Dan Gould, the director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University.

Children cannot comprehend goal-setting, he said, which makes events like world championships more for the parents than for the children.

''We've had reports of burnout and motivational problems among kids who start really young, or they report fractured parent-child relationships,'' he said. ''The kids also start picking up messages like: they love me more when I win. Or we go out for ice cream only when I win.''

Steve Sodetz, 46, a real estate broker with a handicap of about 20, comes from a family of scratch golfers. He grew up loving the sport, and his hope was for Brett to fall in love with it, too. So, when Brett was 18 months old, he gave him a plastic golf club. That first swing, he said, was a thing of beauty.

Brett soon had his own real clubs, and the family eventually moved so Brett could have more time on the golf course.

His parents hired a coach to help him perfect his swing.

''We didn't want to spend our lives saying, 'What if?' '' said Nancy Sodetz, a 43-year-old homemaker.

Here, in a suburb of Las Vegas, they found an ideal place to incubate their son's talent. Brett played in his first tournament at 4 and now plays four or five times a week, from one to three or more hours each session.

To avoid injuries and burnout, his parents involve him in other activities: soccer, baseball, taekwondo, advanced math and Spanish. He is also starting electric guitar lessons. With so much to fall back on, his parents said Brett was free to quit golf.

''It's all about him having fun,'' Steve Sodetz said, and Brett nodded in agreement.

They say Brett learns focus, confidence and discipline from golf, though not effortlessly. Steve Sodetz invents contests to capture his son's attention. If Brett makes a certain number of putts, for example, he wins 25 cents or a trip for ice cream.

At a recent tournament in Las Vegas, Brett was the center of attention. During the warm-up, the father of an 11-year-old watched Brett drive a ball about 150 yards. He was heard calling his son a dolt for not being like Brett, who had just knocked a second ball down the center of the fairway. One father was barred from caddying because tournament directors said he had been belittling his son after nearly every shot.

Gary Xavier, a tournament coordinator, said Brett and his father shared one of the best relationships on the tour.

''Kids here cry all the time on the course because parents put a lot of pressure on them, and they just snap,'' Xavier said. ''But Brett is always smiling.''

When Brett sent one of his shots into the water, he seemed unconcerned, and looked to his father for instruction.

When he made a long putt, he exchanged a high-five with his dad. Brett's father calculates each hole's yardage with a laser, and advises him how to play the ball.

''If I had to equate his ability to a collegiate player of 19, I think Brett would be plus-2 handicap if he progressed the way he is now,'' Xavier said. ''I just hope he and his parents can handle it when he stops winning all the time and they are seeing only small changes.''

As the tournament unfolded, a caravan of golf carts carrying Brett's family followed him for more than four hours as he walked the course.

Between a few holes, Brett did a jig. Before one hole, he and another player ran toward three small dogs yapping in a yard. The boys let out a chorus of ''woofs!'' before their fathers told them to stop.

Although Brett usually shoots around par 36, he finished the day in second, four back, with a 40. He signed his scorecard ''Brett'' in big and looping letters. After falling short, he asked his father if they could hit a few more balls. He was apparently not bothered that it was dark, windy and about 30 degrees.

On the drive home, Brett tried to hand his second-place medal to his father.

''I did pretty good,'' he said, somewhat dejectedly.

His father said, ''Yes, very good.''

In minutes, Brett was napping in his seat.

The medal, soon to be added to his bounty, had slipped from his small hand and onto the floor.





LOAD-DATE: December 31, 2008


GRAPHIC: PHOTOS: Brett Sodetz, 6, won a world title with U.S. Kids Golf, an organization started in 1997 that develops young golfers. (PHOTOGRAPH BY ISAAC BREKKEN FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES) (pg.B9)

Brett Sodetz, a first grader who participated in his first event at 4, plays four or five times a week. (PHOTOGRAPH BY ISAAC BREKKEN FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES) (pg.B14)


Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

3 of 1231 DOCUMENTS

The New York Times

December 30, 2008 Tuesday

Late Edition - Final

Immigration Riddle

SECTION: Section A; Column 0; Editorial Desk; EDITORIAL; Pg. 24

LENGTH: 440 words

A working-class corner of Long Island is staring at a riddle posed by hard economic times and wondering what to do.

Huntington Station is a microcosm of America in the age of suburban immigration. Shops sell pizzas and pupusas in a business district that has been revitalized by Latino entrepreneurs but has a long way to go. Stately Victorians loom among tidy townhouses and shabby rentals. Not far from a platform where bankers board the train to Manhattan, immigrant men sleep in the woods. In the middle of it all, on Depot Road, are day laborers, 100 or more, in rain, shine or snow.

When home renovation and landscaping were booming, day laborers made the good times possible. They were a cheap, convenient way to get hard work done and were treated with tolerance. A hiring site was set up on Depot Road so they could wait in shelter and safety. Now that the local economy has flat-lined, their lives are far harder. A hundred men will gather on a typical weekday. Maybe three will find work.

The Town of Huntington is grappling again with old complaints about groups of men standing around. Last summer, in a regrettable turn, the town passed an ordinance forbidding anyone from looking for work on public property. Now it is considering phasing out its financing for the hiring site.

The town supervisor, Frank Petrone, has supported the site since it opened a decade ago, calling it a pragmatic answer to a problem of traffic management. He wonders whether it is wise to keep spending money on a hiring site where hardly anybody gets hired.

Peggy Boyd, who works for the Family Service League, a nonprofit organization that runs the site with financing from the town and two private foundations, is acutely aware of the conundrum. She and her colleagues have kept the place going, getting to know 90 to 100 of the men who gather there to find not just jobs, but also food, warm clothing and English lessons.

She understands that money is tight. But she also knows that it will take a financial meltdown far harsher than any we have seen to make the laborers disappear.

Mr. Petrone deserves credit for resisting -- so far -- the simple solution, which is to pull the plug and to chase the laborers into the shadows. That would defy common sense and the Constitution. The town should commit itself to keep some services going, and thus keep homelessness, vagrancy, sickness and blight at bay until the good times return.

And until then, the Suffolk County executive, Steve Levy, could also step in, with funds and leadership, to show the rest of Long Island how a community helps all its members, in good times and bad.




LOAD-DATE: December 30, 2008




Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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