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PanAfrican Localisation Why localise in Africa, what’s involved, and a brief report on the PanAfrican Localisation project.

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Presentation on theme: "PanAfrican Localisation Why localise in Africa, what’s involved, and a brief report on the PanAfrican Localisation project."— Presentation transcript:

1 PanAfrican Localisation Why localise in Africa, what’s involved, and a brief report on the PanAfrican Localisation project

2 Goals  Why localise in Africa? o Typical questions, objections o Reasons, current trends (examples)  Describe PanAfrican Localisation project  Specifics of languages & localisation  Keys to success & future prospects  Breaking news from Dakar

3 Definitions  African languages o Indigenous, indigenised, and “languages in Africa”  Localisation o Input methods (& last mile of i18n) o Software o Content o Software for content creation

4 What! Localise in Africa? Typical questions 1. “Doesn’t everyone speak English?” (or French or Portuguese…) 2. 2000 languages?! 3. The languages have no words for … (or no writing) 4. Languages with no future 5. Exacerbate sociolinguistic divisions 6. Technical hurdles

5 1. “Doesn’t everyone speak English?” Phrase heard ’round the world Current markets are dominated by people who have Eng. or Fr. Why would one who speaks Eng. or Fr. want to use another lang.? Official languages are L2s; in fact many don’t speak them (well) In fact, serious expansion of access requires attention to other languages

6 2. Too many languages! Ethnologue estimates some 2000+ languages in Africa

7 2. Too many languages! How many really? – What is a language? A dialect? – Splitters & joiners – Many are related How to localise for so many? – Don't get stuck on the numbers – Question is really how to help people localise for themselves Strategy: begin by disaggregating, start somewhere, learn as you go

8 3. Languages with no words for … Bad old notions of “primitive languages” – Colonial & racist attitudes – Characteristics of oral cultures – Contemporary language impoverishment? “Bambara has no word for ‘research’” – African languages not for science & tech.? – Theory of Relativity in Wolof Why do we say “mouse” in English? – Ex. of “zemi” in Fon

9 4. Languages with no future? Who will hire a speaker of Zulu? Global English rules (& rolls) over all – “language of the stomach” Zero-sum misconceptions – Maternal language or English/French? “Only 1% can read local languages” Economic vs. cultural issues? Endangered languages

10 5. Promote divisions? Notion that validating linguistic diversity will aggravate divisions & lead to social problems – A concern of focus on “nation building” – Are languages really the cause? Misconception that the end result of working with African languages is that one must dominate Idea that many languages = bad communication

11 6. Technical hurdles Some have idea that it is not possible to use African languages on computers & internet, or that there are major technical issues – due to problems posed by special characters, diacritics, and non-Latin scripts This misperception is not as evident now, but has stood in the way of more work (ex. as recent as 2003), and is itself is a hurdle... – experts who just don't understand

12 Truth of the matter The language situation is complex Languages not lacking Linguistic heritage & diversity can be responded to creatively... or neglected – There are trends toward both in Africa – Outsiders tend to ignore African languages – Neglect has its own costs Localisation part of a creative response & needs broader coordination & vision Relates to both development & ICT The PanAfrican Localisation project is in this context

13 So, why is localisation important in Africa? Acknowledge that most people don’t speak the dominant languages in ICT – Interfaces need to be localised for better access – … & content localised for more relevance Recognition of local initiatives Interest in ICT for development – Localisation also a “business” decision of donors & non-governmental organisations – Not so much driven by commercial needs Language survival in information age?

14 Genesis of a project Need to better understand localisation in Africa – actual & potential Efforts exist (open source) – but without coordination, resources or sometimes clarity on what to do Need to assist them with: – Networking (mutual aid, harmonization) – Resources (information, training, more?) IDRC, Kabissa, Bisharat

15 PanAfrican Localisation Project Consists of 3 parts: – Document – Workshop – Database

16 Workshop in Casablanca Probably the first localisation event for Africa as a whole Brought together 29 experts Considered different dimensions of localisation – Current issues – Needs Findings being incorporated into survey document Has already facilitated collaboration

17 Database Premise: there is a need for clear accessible information on languages & tools for localisation Includes – Information for localisers – Basic language info – Character needs – Fonts – Locale status – Resources (people, institutions,...)

18 Document Survey of the localisation situation – Who is doing what? Basic linguistic information on major languages – Language central to localisation Current ICT & language policies & situations in the various countries – “Localisation ecology” – environment in which localisation undertaken

19 Who is doing what? Examples… Software localisation – (Sepedi, Zulu, Afrikaans) – KiLinux (Swahili) – ICT Translations Uganda (Luganda) – Many nascent efforts Input / keyboards – The Nigerian scene: Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo – Others Mobile devices – South African languages – Amharic Other support projects (e.g., by OSI)

20 Basic language information Clarity through specificity Almost 90 languages / clusters – Need to begin somewhere – ~300-400 Ethnologue listings are covered – Ideologies, linguistics & language planning Complexities arise when variation: – Runyakitara (Nyoro+Tooro+Nyankore+Chiga) – Yoruba (Oyo standard - strong) – Igbo (Onwu standard – weak?) … & borders – Manding (Bambara, Jula, Maninka, Mandinka)

21 Example of complexity: Fula 9-11 dialects, 15 countries, 20m people 1 localisation, several, which? Kaleidoscopic locales? Harmonisation?

22 Keys to success? Local initiatives – Training (tech., organization) – Facilitate mutual aid – Tools (e.g., Pootle) – Information resources – Post-localisation “marketing” Broader vision & planning – Local initiatives can’t see the forest – Cross-border languages – Strategy for outreach to areas with potential – Need to attend to the localisation ecologies – Widen network to other “stakeholders”

23 Longer-term issues Sustainability of localisation efforts – Following through – Updating – Marketing, economics & competition Links to education Changing markets Evolving sociolinguistic situations Bringing in cutting-edge technologies – Machine translation – STT, TTS, advanced use of audio Collaboration with other efforts – GILC, “Unicode & IDN,” others

24 A new African initiative Example of increasing interest in localisation in & for Africa “Internet domain names” as access pt.

25 Thank you Questions…

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