Tag Archives: localization

There is often a complicated interplay between human language and the global spread of technology.

If you live in a place where the dominant languages are globally popular (or where less common languages are spoken by affluent communities), there is probably a wealth of “cultural capital” laying around which can help encourage a rapid adoption of new technologies: Things like keyboards being available in your language, pre-existing words for technology concepts, and educational materials and tools which use those words to teach new learners the basics.

So how would you teach people to use a computer in a country that, for example, lacks a word to describe a crashed program? The Economist takes a look at the Mozilla Foundation’s challenges of creating a new technology vocabulary for minority languages which lack them. Quite often, a new language which serves as a path to modernity is crafted out of words used in traditional trades like livestock, farming, and fishing:

Ibrahima Sarr, a Senegalese coder, led the translation of Firefox into Fulah, which is spoken by 20m people from Senegal to Nigeria. “Crash” became hookii (a cow falling over but not dying); “timeout” became a honaama (your fish has got away). “Aspect ratio” became jeendondiral, a rebuke from elders when a fishing net is wrongly woven. In Malawi’s Chichewa language, which has 10m speakers, “cached pages” became mfutso wa tsamba, or bits of leftover food. The windowless houses of the 440,000 speakers of Zapotec, a family of indigenous languages in Mexico, meant that computer “windows” became “eyes”.

I think this is a fascinating and underserved area of development and, if you’d like to support the Mozilla Foundation’s efforts, this page lays out dozens of ways that you can aid their work.

This is a link post – You can visit the site mentioned by clicking the main link above (or just click here).