Creating necessary and useful content in at-sight IALs

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A discussion on this has been going on for a few days over at Auxlang, namely that though at-sight IALs (Interlingua, Occidental, etc.) are easy to understand and kind of fun to try out, the majority of those with a Romance language as an L1 still likely don't have the patience for more than perhaps a page of content, which makes the idea of creating literature in an IAL quite tough. Or more precisely, in terms of literature at-sight languages probably don't have the advantage of being able to appeal to 600 million instead of just a few thousand regular users, because the former group isn't likely to spend that much time with one.

On the other hand, much shorter and "practical" content is still of definite use. One easy example is this video in Hungarian, with Interlingua subtitles (and about Esperanto). Unless you know Hungarian, you need to use the Interlingua subtitles to understand the video. And while this video may not be the most crucial subject in the world, a breaking news report (let's say from Icelandic on Ejyafjallajökull the day it erupted) quickly translated into Interlingua/Occidental just might be.

The IALA's original approach with scientific material was also a good example of making use of Interlingua, as it only involved short technical documents, and scientists are used to reading material in a kind of foreign language anyway. I've just started learning to program in Python (thanks to advice I received here which encouraged me to do so after years of procrastination), and the first program I've created on my own has been one that calculates the gravity and escape velocity (and mass if necessary) of an asteroid or other body. Since it's not that big five minutes suffices to turn it into Occidental, and now it looks like this.

The top example shows how it works when you know the mass, and the second is slightly longer as the user first inputs the radius and mass (usually 4 g/cm^3 for an asteroid) after which the surface gravity and escape velocity is calculated. It's not that difficult to understand that it's about an asteroid with a 500 metre radius, a mass of 2.09 * 10^10 kilograms and this a surface gravity 0.006% that of the Earth and an escape velocity of just 2.7 km/h (IOW, anyone can just make a short hop to break the asteroid's gravity).

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