An article on InfoWorld via got me thinking this morning.

Lack of language terms

Lack of agreed language terms, the slow pace of translation and lack of technical expertise have greatly stunted the development of software in local African languages.

African languages being used

Things ARE moving – slowly. Under the Local Language Program, Microsoft now is developing products in over 60 African languages, although only 8 are currently available. I was really surprised to find out from the article just how many African languages Google is now using.

Google has launched Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya (Ethiopia), Somali (Somalia), Kinyarwanda (Rwanda), Kirundi (Burundi), Lingala (Democratic Republic of Congo), Hausa, Yeruba (Nigeria), Zulu, Xhosa, SeSotho, Africaans (South Africa), Shona (Zimbabwe), Malagasy (Madagascar), and Akan (Ghana and Ivory Coast)

Machine translation

One difference between Google’s approach and Microsoft’s is the use of machine translation by Google. I haven’t heard much about how people feel about Google’s translation attempts, but that would be interesting to find out.  The article has some interesting observations about this.


African linguists need to assist in the development of technical terminologies in local languages as part of the language development process.

Many African languages are not documented and most technology terms such as mouse, phishing and malware, among others, do not exist in African languages, which has hampered the development process.

Suggested Books (US)

Africa Linguistics : Adoption of a Policy Guide for Successful Integration of African Languages and Cultures into Education WEB Bibliography of African Languages and Linguistics Why and how Africa should invest in African languages and multilingual education Africa Linguistics : African scripts, Berber and Tifinagh Globalization and the Role of African Languages for Development

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