“Using a New Language in Africa to Save Dying Ones”

A fascinating article in today’s New York Times by Marc Lacey:

Across the continent, linguists are working with experts in information technology to make computers more accessible to Africans who happen not to know English, French or the other major languages that have been programmed into the world’s desktops.

There are hundreds of languages in Africa – some spoken only by a few dozen elders – and they are dying out at an alarming rate. The continent’s linguists see the computer as one important way of saving them. Unesco estimates that 90 percent of the world’s 6,000 languages are not represented on the Internet, and that one language is disappearing somewhere around the world every two weeks.

“Technology can overrun these languages and entrench Anglophone imperialism,” said Tunde Adegbola, a Nigerian computer scientist and linguist who is working to preserve Yoruba, a West African language spoken by millions of people in western Nigeria as well as in Cameroon and Niger. “But if we act, we can use technology to preserve these so-called minority languages.”

Language geeks, and computer geeks, and progressives unite!

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