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What price English when Chinese Web gets going?

L&H claims Asian market will make USA, Europe backwater

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A senior executive from Lernout & Hauspie paid a flying visit to the offices of The Register at the end of last week and sparked off something of a debate about the future of the Internet. L&H, a Belgian company boosted by funds from both Microsoft and Intel, now has 14 languages which its software will machine translate, backed up by teams of human translators to tweak the idioms. Ellen Spooren, a senior corporate VP of L&H, said that her company's estimate was that in only four or five years' time, the number of Chinese people accessing the Internet would change the current emphasis of the Web from an English-centric to a Chinese-centric phenomenon. IBM, which has been in this market for around 30 years, recently revealed that it will resume research into language translation, three years after it ditched its R&D. The reason, according to sources, is the magic phrase "e-commerce". Just a couple of days after her visit, L&H signed a deal with Group Sense Internatonal (GSL) and Huajian Electronic Corporation to create a JV aimed at assisting consumers in China to learn English as a second language. The deal will mean personalised language learning solutions including Web-connected handheld devices for Chinese consumers. GSL will make these, while Huajian will provide full sentence translation between English and Mandarin. According to L&H executive Louis Woo, Internet use in China will reach nine million users next year. L&H will integrate its RealSpeak software into the handheld devices. ®

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