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Instant messaging in Spanish, Portuguese

Instant messaging will get a little more international in flavor with the launch of client software tailored for Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking users.

Instant messaging will get a little more international in flavor with the launch of client software tailored for Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking users.

StarMedia Network, a major content aggregation site for Latin America and the Spanish-speaking United States, today announced it will launch the bilingual messaging client.

Non-English-speaking people can and do use currently available chat and instant messaging clients that are geared for English. But software specifically written for a particular language offers benefits that can add to the comfort level of the user and the clarity of communications.

Dubbed StarMedia Express, the messaging client offers documentation, help pages, and tools in Spanish and Portuguese. It also supports foreign characters--and that can help prevent some sensitive errors.

Diacritical marks can make all the difference, said native Spanish-speaker and San Francisco translator Francisco Hulse, though in informal communications like chat and email writers often do without them.

"[In Spanish,] there's an accent over certain vowels, the tilde over n, and occasionally the diaeresis over u," Hulse noted. "A lot of people, even when writing email, leave them out, and figure the other person will figure out from context whether you mean término, which means 'term,' as opposed to terminó, which means 'he, she, or it finished.' Another example is año, which is 'year' with the tilde, but without it, it's ano, which means 'anus.'"

The real value of language-specific messaging software may lie more in user comfort than in clarity, however.

"At StarMedia, we've worked hard to create an environment where the Spanish and Portuguese speaking online community truly feels at home," StarMedia chief executive Fernando Espuelas said in a statement announcing the release.

StarMedia Express will run on software developed by PeopleLink. PeopleLink is not the only messaging software provider to cover languages other than English. Lotus, for instance, supports Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish in its Sametime messaging software for business use.