Thanks, Edward. I think we are in agreement in the points you make, and
I appreciate the examples.

Just for clarification, the line you respond to was written by Guido
Sohne. He also made the interesting attempt to gauge potential interest
in ICT localization by the existence or not of newspapers in Ghanaian
languages. I brought up an example and in the time since my reply
(written in April, though posted to the list earlier this month) found
reference to two periodicals that are (or used to be - haven't been able
to verify) published in Akan: Nkwantabisa and Akwansosem.

It is also useful to consider how localization fares in other parts of
the continent. From various contacts in recent years, and the recent
PanAfrican Localisation workshop, it is clear that there is popular
interest and a generally positive reaction. There are lots of stories
and anecdotes.

That said, I always try to keep in mind the observations of Russell
Bernard (U. Florida cultural & linguistic anthropologist) re attitudes
of people in a community to the use of their first language: Basically
there is generally a range of opinions. People on the outside - both
those favoring localization and those dismissing it - tend to overlook
this important fact. In Africa I think that those who are more
interested in using their first language may be less likely to actively
express this or even to admit it, hence it's easy to get the impression
that no one is interested. The languages often have low status, and
people are socialized to think of anything new and technological being
in English, French, or other tongues originating in Europe, so it might
not even occur to some that their first languages might be used in
novel, productive, and even high-tech ways. This arguably has a big
impact on all spheres of development, not just ICT.

In any event, the existence of a diversity of opinions in language
communities is not a reason to temper or reduce efforts to localize. It
meets a need or desire on the part of some, may awaken an interest in
others (the latent interest you mention is here), and provides an option
for all. Part of the advantage of localization is to open up new
dimensions of use of the technology. Africa is multilingual, with
different languages being used in different ways even by the same
people. Why shouldn't ICT be the same way? Or put differently, what are
the costs to the usefulness and effectiveness of ICT4D in Africa of
limiting it to English and French? (No one of course is suggesting that
we remove the English or French versions from systems in Africa - the
nature of ICT is additive, after all.)

I mentioned a range of opinions on language use and utility within a
community. There is another level to consider that is vitally important
- that of the country (and region) as a whole. In particular,
governments have a key role in setting language policy and this has a
big impact on education and ICT. One Ghanaian correspondant recently
wrote that the Ghanaian government is "anti local language." I'm seeking
clarification as to whether this refers to specific legislation or just
a reflection of attitudes among the urban elite. But either way it could
put a damper (at least) not only on localization but also other
endeavors such as, say, newspapers - or even news pages - in the
indigenous languages.

Localization of course is not done in a vacuum. With a background in
environment and development, I tend to look for the interacting elements
of a system. One can speak of the language/linguistic ecology of a
society (and indeed the term "linguistic ecology" is in use), or even of
the social or political - or linguistic - ecology of localization. So,
even if one were to undertake localization for its own sake (not the
general rule) one would still depend on a range of other factors from
technical assistance, coding to translate, language specialists, funding
of some sort, leadership/vision towards a sustainable effort, etc. But
localization of living languages also has a purpose, a potential
community of users, and various potential impacts outside the
telecenter, cybercafe or school. When we talk of localization in Africa,
therefore, we are talking about a process that needs not only motivated
speakers of the languages in question, but also a supportive environment
including governments, development organizations, local computer and
FOSS groups, universities, etc. (And why not, even big business too.)

I guess at this point the burden is still primarily on the localizers to
demonstrate what is possible (as they are beginning to already, from
keyboards to full software suites). But it's important that the fruit of
the "early" efforts be brought into various ICT4D and ICT for education
projects for evaluation, demonstration, and feedback.

I'll stop here as I'm starting to ramble on, but will leave you and the
group with the (not terribly original, but still important) thought that
the next several years will see some very interesting developments in
the multilingualization of ICT, especially as 1) localization developers
become more numerous, 2) hardware miniaturizes and the links among
different types of systems (computers, handhelds, even radio) become
ever easier and more commonplace, and 3) software for transformation of
language(s) becomes more sophisticated and accurate (TTS/STT, MT).
Localization in African languages (at least the major ones) is no longer
a question of "if" or even really of "when," but more one of "how" and
more so of "how well."

Thanks again and we look forward to communicating more with you (and
others) on this subject.


Don Osborn
Bisharat.net


On 6/24/05, Edward Cherlin <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:

> On Friday, 10 June 2005, Donald Z. Osborn wrote:
> 
> > There is not a huge demand for local language applications right now.
> 
> The claim that there is no demand for a product is quite often wrong,
> especially when based on supposition rather than investigation....
> 
> In every case involving language support in software that I have
> investigated, there is huge latent demand, but it is not expressed
> openly because everybody knows they can't get it yet.
 
..snip...



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