About 99% of the internet’s content is written in just 30 languages — and more than half of that content is written in English. That means the vast majority of the world’s languages are simply underrepresented on the internet. Recently, there have been numerous grassroots efforts to increase the amount of content available in minority languages across the world, from campaigns to create Wikipedia entries in these languages to improving speech recognition technologies so that systems for under-resourced languages can be more accessible.
One of the latest such efforts recently came to light in a report by The Verge — Twitch streamers who speak languages like Basque and Welsh have taken to streaming content in their native or heritage languages, in an effort to make the languages more accessible.
“I believe that at the end of the day, all of us who create content in Basque are [activists],” one of the Twitch streamers told The Verge’s Kristen Sinclair. “For many of us, the relationship we have with our mother tongue is fundamental for us when it comes to enjoying what we do.”
According to The Verge, Twitch does not offer a specific language tag for many minority languages, meaning that content produced in these languages often gets lost in a miscellaneous “Other” category. Social media campaigns, like the #CatalanLoveTwitch hashtag, have led to some change (and in May, Twitch announced that it would be introducing more than 300 different tags for content targeted to or produced by underrepresented communities), though many languages still lack sufficient tagging.
Many of the tags recently introduced to Twitch are associated with a nationality, rather than a language (i.e., “Scottish” versus “Scottish Gaelic” or “New Zealand” versus “Māori”), which some streamers believe is not particularly helpful.
Twitch is a popular platform for streaming live video content, most frequently associated with video gaming, though streamers can produce content on a wide range of topics. Although the streamers profiled in The Verge’s report note that producing content only in their native language limits the size of their audience, they believe it is a worthwhile endeavor to create high quality content in these languages, which lack widespread visibility on the internet.