Fresh from the Google Blog:
Until now, there hasn’t been a good way to send email to friends and family in Hindi, my native language and their language of choice. That’s why I’m happy to announce a new feature for Gmail that lets you type email in Indian languages. If you’re in India, this feature is enabled by default. If not, you’ll need to turn it on in the “Language” section under Settings. Once enabled, just click the Indian languages icon and type words in the way they sound in English — Gmail will automatically convert them to their Indian language equivalent.
They now support Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam (the native tongue of my father’s side of the family in Kerala). Note that these languages tend to be spoken in the south, particularly Malayalam and Tamil, two of the most prominent languages in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Kerala particularly is the most literate and educated state in India as well as the only place that I know of that has ever had a democratically elected communist government. Keep in mind Kerala communism is intrinsically different from regular communism, which I put down to major differences in the structure and nature of Indian society.
Imagine a world where communicative barriers are so low as to be practically non-existent. It’s kind of like a reverse Tower of Babel effect.
Related thought: It seems to me that places like Kerala are extraordinarily fertile places for studies of political and micro-political behavior. Is it true for instance that certain political behaviors are more characteristic of large, densely populated places? And what effects do cultural differences have? Most of the work in political science that I know of uses datasets culled from Western populations; it would seem to me that some extremely valuable insights could be found.