Mother Language Day: the challenge for the Fulah language

By IBRAHIMA SARR, on 21-02-2011 20:20

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imldayToday February 21st 2011, we are all celebrating the International Mother Language Day. Initiated in November 1999 by the United Nations Education Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO), this special day means a lot to me and my mother language Fulah. Indeed, it is another opportunity to bring back language in the center of the globalization debate. Everybody knows it in Fulah: "Ɗemngal ko wokŋki leñol" (Langauge is the soul of a people). It is not just a mere communication tool that can be replaced bay another in that it embodies the very essence of cultural heritage. The theme of the day "The information and communication technologies for the safeguarding and promotion of languages and linguistic diversity"  is of crucial importance to me and the Fulah Localization team. That is why, during the months before this day of celebration, Fula Localization and myself have worked closely with the African Network for Localization (ANLOC) to make the Fulah language a much more digitized tool so as to ease its integration in the new opportunities brought forward by information and communication technology.


Localizing in Fulah is one of the most exciting challenges we can face as the language is different from one country to another, and even from one region to another within a single country! Fulah speakers are scatter all over western Africa, in 20 countries. The language has been declared a vehicular trans-border language and has it's own commission in the Academy of African languages (Acalan). Millions of potential users of Fulah have no access to computers or even electricity, but those who are lucky enough to be connected the information world are becoming more and more conscious of the importance of leaning, speaking and most importantly using the language in every aspect of their lives! There are thousands in dozens of Facebook groups who are now working hand in hand to say their pride in Fulah more loudly than ever!

Fulah Localization Team has been working hard to complete the localization project initiated by ANLOC in 2010. Since major objectives have been attained such as the completion of Abiword localization. We are proud to announce to all speakers of Fulah that the first ever word processor with an entirely "Fulah-rized" interface has been completed and will be available soon. Among other projects, we have completed the localization of Tux Paint, a digital painting programme for kids .. and older kids like me. Pootle, the translation server is also localized and Fulah users can choose Fulah as their interface language. Last but not least, the powerful translation memory tool Virtaal is also localized and I am actually sign it to translation VLC Media Player at this very time when ANLOC members are meeting in Nairobi as part of the long awaited 2011 conference. We have not managed to be among them today but we are all united to celebrate linguistic diversity and mother Language development.

Long live African languages!
A great future is ahead

Ibrahima SARR

Last update: 21-02-2011 20:20

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