The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How Much Can You Say?

A friend sent me an article from which I've posted an extract below. The full article may be read here.

Twitter users around the world share one thing in common: the 140-character limit. The figure may be constant regardless of where you tweet, it's not the same: How much you can say in 140 characters varies greatly language to language. For Germanic and Romance languages that require many prepositions and contain sounds requiring more than one letter (such as "sch"  or "cht" in German), the character limit has given way to all sorts of creative abbreviations. But for logographic (or mostly logographic) languages -- like Chinese and Japanese, in which one symbol can represent an entire word -- 140 characters is quite spacious. As Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei once said, "In the Chinese language, 140 characters is a novella." (Twitter itself is banned in China, but a similar service, Weibo, has the same character limit.)

How much more can you tweet in a logographic language than in English? One British IT consultant created a tool that hooked up Twitter to Google Translate and ran twitter feeds from different languages to compare their lengths once they were translated into English. Of course, any computer generated translation is at best a rough estimation of what a human would produce, but the results of his little test still give us a little clue about the information contained per tweet. He found that the Japanese tweets he surveyed averaged out to 260 English characters each. Thai tweets were also quite long, at 184. And these tweets weren't all 140 characters in their original language to begin with!

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