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Mera Wala Email E-Mail this report to a friend

Shirley Singh

The Internet has begun to look beyond English.

It has begun to look at millions who would probably never email anyone in English, in their lifetime. One, because they don't know the language; two, probably because they wouldn't want to say anything in any language but their own, unless necessary. For anything more leisurely and personal, they'd rather write the way they talk. Share the feel of a word, instead of merely conveying its meaning.

One significant Indian multilingual email service is ePatra, which offers mail in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Malayalam, Assamese, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Oriya, besides English. The big plus point is that it doesn't require any downloads of Indian language fonts -- though in case of some difficulty, the provision is there - relying, instead, on server side logic. Once a user logs in and clicks on 'compose', a box is automatically configured for a selected language. Even at the receiver's end (and you can send email to any other service like Yahoomail, Rediffmail, Hotmail, etc.) there will be an intimation saying that the mail is in so-and-so language. Clicking on a given link enables the receiver to read the language mail in an Epatra pop-up window. Again, minus any downloads.

Epatra is unique in its two-window display system, whereby, as you type in the left window, you can see the Indian language words being formed in the adjacent right window. Thus, you can see exactly what combination of English alphabets gives what combination of, say, Hindi or Tamil words. There is vowel guidance for transliteration, while the rest of it works, quite simply, on pronunciation. For instance, you could type "aap kaise hain" to get the Hindi version in your mail.

The minimum requirement for ePatra is Internet Explorer 4.0 and above, and Netscape Communicator 4.0 and above. It works with all Windows Operating Systems, used at most cyber cafés or home computers. However, while ePatra users still need to know the English alphabet and word formation, those at MailJol don't even need that.

Apart from the option of typing in English here, (which is transliterated into the local language), there is a complete set of the chosen language's alphabets and vowels on the 'compose' page - you can click on each alphabet and it will automatically be pasted in the email window. This can then be edited, deleted or reworked like any other mail.

There is one difficulty though. Both, composing and receiving mail via Mailjol requires you to download the specific font on the computer used. This, though slightly time-consuming, is not a difficult process. However, while it is a one-time procedure for those using the same computer regularly, it means having to download the font every time one sits at a different PC at, for example, a cyber café.

Mailjol is based on Unicode (international) and ISCII (national) open multilingual standards -- these are used to code multilingual text just as ASCII is used for coding English text. Currently, mailto works on any computer system running Windows 95, 98, NT4, or 2000. One great resource available at the site is Mailto Unplugged, a desktop email program that allows you to work on your email without being connected to the web.

Write then, in your own language. Kapil Dhatingan of Mailjol.com urges, "Using our language to communicate preserves our culture, tradition and identity." For, as Kelly Fordyce said, "Language is a wonderful thing. It can be used to express thoughts, to conceal thoughts, but more often, to replace thinking."

Take a quick tour of the multilingual email services online.

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