(via LinkBlog) Cá Bhfuil Na Gaeilg eoirí? discusses how many of the 25% of Ireland who reckon they speak Irish fluently actually speak any at all. The author’s approach is very pragmatic and empirical: only speak Irish and find out how many respond. There seems to be a pretty big gap between that 25% and the real number.
When a search engine is operating in a country with multiple flavours, be they human languages, browser versions or mobile devices, choosing which to support is often a tricky choice. There are real commercial and often political consequences. A lot of people feel very strongly about what languages are spoken and supported in, e.g., Belgium, France or Ireland. Small vocal minorities can make a big difference. Similarly, which browser is used by most of the populace differs a lot from country to country. In Germany, Firefox is the norm. In the Netherlands, that’s still IE.
Supporting an extra language can add a lot of cost to the rollout of a search engine. Initially simple aspects like phonetic search, or exonyms, can add enormous complexity which takes you by surprise. For a best of breed enterprise or web search product, phonetic search comes out of the box. It will require configuring by a native speaker, but for many large languages this will already have been done. The complexity will hit when you least expect it: in testing, rather than in development.