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Must read: ‘African Languages in a Digital Age’

February 24, 2010  »  EducationNo Comment
Making local voices heard

Making local voices heard

What is localization in the African context and what is its importance in the long term? African Languages in a Digital Age: Challenges and opportunities for indigenous language computing, a new e-book authored by Don Osborn and published by the Human Sciences Research Council, examines the need for such localization of digital content. Across the globe, thousands of languages lack representation online. The cultures linked to these languages, consequently, have limited options to disseminate their ideas and potentially gain credibility on the world stage. After all, in today’s world, the ability to communicate effectively is worth its weight in economic gains.

The beauty of this publication is how the author merges examinations of the minutiae of localization with broader theory. For example, in the section about challenges facing, Osborn mentions the use of extended character sets, the costs of translating content, and “the negative attitudes towards African languages among foreign development and educations experts and even some native language speakers.” (Osborn 6) Similarly, chapters in the book range from linguistics and how to sustain long-term ‘localisation’ to more technical aspects like fonts and input systems. African Languages in a Digital Age reads more like a final report than a conventional book, but again, this is a plus as it is conducive for efficient skimming of the material.

Most importantly, to further encourage the development of content, the entire 150-page (2.8 MB) book is available as a free electronic download and can even be downloaded in chapters for those who rely on limited bandwidth. Of course you can also pay R 130.00 for a soft cover copy. Find the book at the HSRC Press website.

Learn even more about localisation at the PanAfriL10n Wiki.