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Learning English - Words in the News
19 July, 2004 - Published 14:27 GMT
Internet Conference in Malaysia

Internet experts are meeting in Malaysia this week to try to make the worldwide web work better for people who don't use western alphabets. This report from Jonathan Kent:

Listen to the story

If you send a letter and misspell the street name, a sharp-eyed postal worker can still make sure it reaches its destination.

But the internet doesn't work that way. It needs precise information, and a single mistake in the address means that a message won't get through.

While western alphabets are largely similar, many others, like Chinese, vary from country to country, making it even more difficult to provide the computer the right data.

So there's now an effort to iron out differences between the Chinese characters used on the mainland, in Taiwan, South Korea and elsewhere, so internet users can communicate more easily.

The same principle can be applied to Arabic, Thai and languages in the Indian sub-continent.

Agreement would also allow non-English equivalents for 'dot com' and 'dot biz' and the like, so-called top-level domain names, to be developed in other languages.

The organisation leading this discussion, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, says it will be a major step forward in de-anglicising the web.

Jonathan Kent, BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Listen to the words

spell wrongly

here, clever, attentive

exact, accurate

get through
be delivered

are different

iron out differences
if you iron out differences, you make them disappear

the same principle can be applied
if the same principle is applied to different things, they are treated in the same way

non-English equivalents
the same things expressed in different languages

a major step forward
a big improvement

if you de-anglicise something, you make it less English

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