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English in computing

English is the lingua franca in computing and on the Internet, and the computing vocabulary of
many languages is borrowed from English.

Scientific vocabulary
In many languages, Greek and Latin roots constitute an important part of the scientific
vocabulary. This is especially true for the terms referring to fields of science. For example, the
equivalent words for mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, and genealogy are roughly the
same in many languages. As for computer science, numerous words in many languages are from
American English, and the vocabulary can evolve very quickly. An exception to this trend is the
word referring to computer science itself, which in many European languages is roughly the
same as the English informatics: German: Informatik; French: informatique; Spanish, Italian, and
Portuguese: informática; Polish: informatyka.


In German, English words are very often used as well:

• noun: Computer, Website, Software, E-Mail, Blog

• verb: downloaden, booten, crashen


The English influence on the software industry and the internet in Latin America has borrowed
significantly from the Castilian lexicon.

frequently untranslated, and their Spanish equivalent

• email: correo electrónico

• messenger: mensajero
• software: logical
• webcam: cámara web
• website: página web, sitio web
• blog: bitácora

Not translated
• web
• flog
• wiki


Many computing terms in Spanish share a common root with their English counterpart. In these
cases, both terms are understood, but the Spanish is preferred for formal use:

• mouse vs ratón
• net vs red

Character encoding
The first character encodings were designed for the English language:

• ASCII (1960s)

and some other encodings were developed later for the needs of other languages:

• Extended ASCII
• Unicode (1990s)

Programming language
Though almost all programming languages use English keywords, in the absolute it is possible to
write code in every natural language. Here are some examples of non-English programming

• Arabic: ARLOGO
• Bangla: BangaBhasha
• Chinese: Chinese BASIC
• Dutch: Superlogo
• French: LSE, WinDev
• Hebrew: Hebrew Programming Language
• Icelandic: Fjölnir
• Indian: Hindawi Programming System
• Russia: Glagol
• Spanish: Lexico

Communication protocols
Many application protocols, especially those depending on widespread standardisation to be
effective, use text strings for requests and parameters, rather than the binary values commonly
used in lower layer protocols. The request strings are generally based on English words, although
in some cases the strings are contractions or acronyms of English expressions, which renders
them somewhat cryptic to anyone not familiar with the protocol, whatever their proficiency in
English. Nevertheless, the use of word-like strings is a convenient mnemonic device that allows
a person skilled in the art (and with sufficient knowledge of English) to execute the protocol
manually from a keyboard, usually for the purpose of finding a problem with the service.


• FTP: USER, PASS (password), PASV (passive), PORT, RETR (retrieve), STOR (store),
• SMTP: HELO (hello), MAIL, RCPT (recipient), DATA, QUIT

It is notable that response codes, that is, the strings sent back by the recipient of a request, are
typically numeric: for instance, in HTTP (and some borrowed by other protocols)

• 200 OK request succeeded

• 301 Moved Permanently to redirect the request to a new address
• 404 Not Found the requested page does not exist

This is because response codes also need to convey unambiguous information, but can have
various nuances that the requester may optionally use to vary its subsequent actions. To convey
all such "sub-codes" with alphabetic words would be unwieldy, and negate the advantage of
using pseudo-English words. Since responses are usually generated by software they do not need
to be mnemonic. Numeric codes are also more easily analysed and categorised when they are
processed by software, instead of a human testing the protocol by manual input.


See also: Internationalization and localization


Almost all the computers on Earth have a BIOS in English, though sometimes it may also be
translated into the local language of the country where the computer is sold.

Keyboard shortcut

Keyboard shortcuts are usually defined after English keywords such as CTRL+F for find.

Weak point of the English language

Like most of the natural languages, the English language has some ambiguities. In the context of
computing, the ambiguousness of certain words may be more embarrassing:

• free, see Gratis versus Libre

• language, the same word may refer to natural language (French: langue) and
programming language (French: langage)

English on the World Wide Web

English is the predominant language on the World Wide Web—content and English-language
users—has fueled the rise of the web as a means of communication, information dissemination
and entertainment. This article details statistics of Internet linguistic patterns and their impact. In
considering which languages dominate, two statistics are considered: the first language of the
users and the language of actual material posted on the web.

English speakers

Web user percentages usually focus on raw comparisons of the first language of those who
access the web. Just as important is a consideration of second- and foreign-language users; i.e.,
the first language of a user does not necessarily reflect which language he or she regularly
employs when using the web.

Native speakers

English-language users appear to be a plurality of web users, consistently cited as around one-
third of the overall (near one billion). This reflects the relative affluence of English-speaking
countries and high Internet penetration rates in them.

This lead may be eroding due mainly to a rapid increase of Chinese users,[1] which broadly
parallels China's advance on other economic fronts. In fact, if first-language speakers are
compared, Chinese ought, in time, to outstrip English by a wide margin (837+ million for
Mandarin Chinese, 370+ million for English).

First-language users among other relatively affluent countries appear generally stable, the two
largest being German and Japanese, which each have between 5% and 10% of the overall share.

As a foreign language

If a gradual decline in English first-language users is inevitable, it does not necessarily follow
that English will not continue to be the language of choice for those accessing the World Wide
Web. There is an enormous pool of English second-language speakers who employ the language
in technical, governmental and educational spheres[2] and access the Internet in English.

A classic example of this scenario is India, the world's second most populated country. With
economic growth, English has begun exploding as the emerging lingua franca in India. In 1995 it
was thought that perhaps only 4% of the population was truly fluent in English (still an
impressive 40 million).[3] A decade later, by 2005, India had the world's largest English-speaking
and understanding population [4] and second largest "Fluent English" speaking population (led
only by the U.S.). It is expected to have the world's largest number of English speakers within a

Chinese is rarely employed as a lingua franca outside of China by non-ethnic Chinese; even
countries bordering the country or with large Chinese minorities (Malaysia) tend toward English
as a commercial and educational language. Further, China is not truly monoglot: Standard
Mandarin is official but different spoken variants of Chinese are often mutually unintelligible;
the diaspora disproportionately speaks Cantonese. There is, however, an existing written
standard that serves as a common written language.

In the future, then, English and Chinese may have roughly equal positions at the top of the
overall web first-language users, but English will likely continue to dominate as the default
choice for those accessing the World Wide Web in a second language.

Other world languages that could conceivably begin to challenge English include Spanish and
Arabic, though it remains to be seen if these, too, will be largely isolated to first-language
speakers on the Internet as is Chinese.

World Wide Web content

One widely quoted figure for the amount of web content in English is 80%.[6] Other sources show
figures five to fifteen points lower, though still well over 50%.[7] [8] There are two notable facts
about these percentages:

The English web content is greater than the number of first-language English users by as much
as 2 to 1.

Given the enormous lead it already enjoys and its increasing use as a lingua franca in other
spheres, English web content may continue to dominate even as English first-language Internet
users decline. This is a classic positive feedback loop: new Internet users find it helpful to learn
English and employ it on-line, thus reinforcing the language's prestige and forcing subsequent
new users to learn English as well.

Certain other factors (some predating the medium's appearance) have propelled English into a
majority web-content position. Most notable in this regard is the tendency for researchers and
professionals to publish in English to ensure maximum exposure. The largest database of
medical bibliographical information, for example, shows English was the majority language
choice for the past forty years and its share has continually increased over the same period.[9]

The fact that non-Anglophones regularly publish in English only reinforces the language's
dominance. English has the richest technical vocabulary of any language (largely because native
and non-native speakers alike use it to communicate technical ideas), and so many IT and
technical professionals use English regardless of country of origin (Linus Torvalds, for instance,
comments his code in English, despite being from Finland and having Swedish as his first

1. ^ English grip on internet being eroded | Technology | Guardian Unlimited
2. ^ NationMaster - English status (most recent) by country
3. ^ English in India - and Who Speaks English to Whom and When?
4. ^ ABC NewsRadio: wordwatch, English speakers
5. ^ Inglish as She's Spoke
6. ^ What percentage of the internet is in English?
7. ^ http://www.verisign.com/press_releases/pr/page_029135.html
8. ^ English could snowball on Net TRN 112101
9. ^ Language and country preponderance trends in MEDLINE and its causes

External links
News and books

• Online English grammar exercises and handouts for beginners

• Wikinews
• AllYouCanRead.com -28,000 Newspapers and Magazines
• Google News (select country next to "Top Stories")
• Newspapers Online
• Online Newspapers
• Newseum Today's front pages from 300 newspapers
• Project Gutenberg
• Wikibooks
• Wikisource (public domain documents)
• Simple English Wikipedia, intended for novices of the language
• Online English Tools
• English grammar and vocabulary tests and exercises for ESL students

Future of global English

• English Next Critical analysis by David Graddol for the British Council