Tech's all foreign to us

Tech's all foreign to us

I’ve always known the French like to be a bit different. In the defence of the langue Française, they insist on the use of French words. Fair enough. I’m familiar with their use of courrier (or courrier electronique, to give it its full name), for example, as opposed to email.

A few years ago, the French civil service tried to stop the use of ‘cyber-Anglicisms’ – essentially the use of technology words in English. So, among other things, a “start up” was officially replaced by a jeune pousse (a young plant … no, I don’t get that one either).

Of course, ‘cyber-Anglicisms’ are fairly well engrained around the world. And for those of us who live life safely cocooned within our English-speaking bubble, it seems inconceivable that any one would want to say things other than internet, computer, email, web … or so I thought.

I’ve been trying to learn a little bit of Spanish. So far, so good. I can say my name, count to 10, ask for a beer – all the important things. I figured IT-speak would be a cinch. Computer, right? Wrong. Ordenador. The internet is even worse, “la red”.

I could just about work out ciberespacio (cyberspace), directorio (directory), cliquer (click) and sitio web (website). Software is, well, software. Virtual is virtual. So maybe things weren’t so bad after all.

Here’s a couple for you to grapple with. Any ideas?

Programa; megabitas; pirata.

Hopefully, you managed program, megabytes and hacker (sic pirate). Similarly, sistema operative (operating system) and even ratón (mouse) shouldn’t be beyond our powers of comprehension. I must admit when I first saw ‘mensajería instantánea’ I kinda freaked. But then I took a bit of time … just say it … any ideas … say it s-l-o-w-l-y … ah, instant message. Likewise ‘navegador’, which does sort of sound like navigator … think, think … browser! Si!

But it’s not all quite so easy. Take ‘buscador’ (search engine) or descargar (download).

Once you know one word, others do come a little easier. In a similar vein to French, correo electrónico is email. That makes it far easier to understand buzón de correo … mailbox , and correo basura … junk mail.

Any ideas for ordenador portátil?

If you said laptop, give yourself “una palmadita en la parte posterior”, which if my Spanish is getting any better at all should mean “a pat on the back” (at least I hope it does).

I guess what I’ve learned is that while English extends its reach throughout tech-speak – and that’s hardly surprising given the dominance of the US – we (as in English speakers) win some and we lose some. And when it comes down to it, if we made it a bit more of a two-way street, we could actually pick up a few gems along the way.

Working my way through the dictionary, I came across “cibernauta”. Again it’s one of those that if you say it, you’ll probably get its meaning … and I love it. I think we should all start calling ourselves cybernauts as opposed to surfers.

Qué usted piensa?

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