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Microsoft's Encyclopedias Differ in Language and Content

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RALEIGH — We look to encyclopedias for factual information about everything from the Arctic to zoology. However, truth or fact may not be universal.

Microsoft's CD-ROM encyclopedia, Encarta, is in wide use around the world. There are now 10 versions in different languages; however, the differences do not end there.

The height of Europe's Mount Blanc is measured differently in Italy and France. The Italian Encarta shows Antonio Meucci was first to develop talking over wires.

"He did invent a wireless, voice wireless system," says Craig Bartholomew with Microsoft Encarta. "It's uncertain whether it's a telephone, but he did invent this before Alexander Graham Bell."

N.C. State University Librariesrecently added four foreign versions of Encarta to its reference collection.

Foreign editions with cultural and factual differences are important for a diverse faculty and student population.

Carolyn Argentati with NCSU Libraries says it allows the students "to actually be able to do an assignment or research paper using a reference source like one of these encyclopedias in a native language."

Bartholomew says Microsoft thinks locally when publishing Encarta.

"We hire experts and encyclopedists in Italy, France or Germany, and we give them the authority to make decisions on their products so they can make the best possible encyclopedia for their country," he said.

Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo; however, the description of his defeat is not nearly as catastrophic in the French Encarta as in the English version.

Encarta is not alone as most encyclopedias attempt to address cultural differences. Reference materials reflect and elaborate on what is taught in schools and what is taught in schools around the world is not universal.

The U.S. edition of Microsoft Encarta costs between $70 and $90. Foreign editions are not normally sold here in the states.


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