Through my years of using the internet as a means of communication, the idea of digital divides never really occurred to me until after taking the RHE309K Arguing the Digital Divide course. This class made me think of how everyone including myself are divided digitally in some way. When I used the internet to connect with my cousins from China, I saw technology playing its role as a bridge to connect myself to them. For the longest time, I only saw the bridge, and I failed to notice the obstacles that were on that bridge. When online and connecting to people in China, users need to be aware of what they say, but when there is a language barrier, it acts as an ever bigger obstacle towards communication.
Occasionally, I would communicate with my cousins using e-mail in English since the most Chinese I have taken was one semester of class. Since English is a required foreign language in the Chinese education curriculum, I assumed that their English is pretty good, but of course English is one of the hardest languages when learned as a second language, meaning there is a limit to their abilities compared to the level of native English speakers. This brings me back to the time in high school where my grandmother and parents wanted to try communication through video chat which was free instead of using the traditional method of calling. Since most of my cousins in China had a QQ account, it made sense for me to create my own QQ account to connect with them; however it was easier said than done. The QQ site did not have the option of changing languages and everything was in Chinese. My dad, who could read Chinese but did not really understand the vocabulary of basic computer usage, tried to translate everything on the page to me. We eventually downloaded the program and created an account, but we had trouble getting the video to work. We ended up giving up and had my cousins create Skype accounts. We have been communicating with Skype during holidays ever since.
I recently went on QQ for this assignment and apparently they have a QQ international now. Unlike Skype where there are many language options, QQ international only has English, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese. Even though English is a language that is growing as it is being taught all over the world, it acts as a divide for older generations from foreign countries from using it. It is not just the foreign languages but also the computer language that acts as obstacles on the bridge the internet creates for communication. In addition, people usually prefer using the language they are more proficient in than a second language. If QQ international is trying to become truly international, and allow the world to gain access to it, it needs to provide as much language options as possible. For one to conquer the personal digital divide, one must understand the languages, languages that act as obstacles on the bridge, the bridge to communication.
This post was written by a student, and has been left unedited by the admin, with the exception of any hyperlinks.