Today we would like to share a note from our very own Firefox Student Ambassador Bamisaye. He shares his view on the development of devices in local languages in his country, Nigeria.
Nigeria is the third most ethnically and linguistically diverse countries in the world, after New Guinea and Indonesia. This ethno linguistic diversity has very significant implications in almost every area of the economy; it implies a major investment in educational and media resources to reach a diverse population.
Brief Languages Classification in Nigeria
Despite the diversity of languages within the 6 geopolitical zones, there are three ethnic groups with three fundamental languages, which are Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo.
Hausa is spoken across much of northern Nigeria and between northern expatriates elsewhere in Nigeria. In 2007, there were 34 million people speaking the language but unfortunately, the profound belief of sharia has limited the literacy level.
Yoruba language is widely spoken in the Southwest and has several sub-ethic groups, such as the Ijebu, Awori, Egba, etc. This cultural group was the first to receive western civilization which had an impact in maximizing the benefits of education. In fact, they founded the first school in Nigeria.
Igbo standard form is spoken between diverse Igbo groups in East-Central. It is one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa and they are known for their creative and business strategies.
But in total, there are 521 languages spoken in Nigeria, such as Efik spoken in the South East, Fulani, which is spoken across the country by pastoralists, Kanuri used among Kanuri groups and minorities in the Northeast part of Nigeria and Pidgin widely spoken in various forms across much of the South.
Pidgin has been developed quite recently and partially from English and other languages. This language is quite ‘convenient’ because little formal education is required, it doesn’t have a predefined grammatical structure such as English and it allows people to improvise new words based on daily changes.
Why do we need to develop devices in local languages?
I believe my community should be able to use the web and enjoy online service, that is the reason why I have decided to join groups who are working on providing translation of web content in my local language. I had the chance to interview several people within my community and noticed that they all welcome this idea and are looking for a web developed in their local language.
As a Firefox Student Ambassador, I believe that the development of Firefox OS in Africa will help Africans to access the web.
Firstly, the development of Firefox OS in four indigenous languages (Yoruba, Igbo, Pidgin and Hausa) would encourage reading, writing and communication. The ultimate desire for us is to have technology that fully integrates local languages and enables us to promote our cultures.
Secondly, it brings a new trend that shows a sense of belonging, encouraging cultural lovers to adapt Firefox OS as an operating system that favours ethnic diversity and national integration.
Integrating local languages will also empower indigenous languages to bridge the gap between environmental and technological literacy. Having a device, especially in Pidgin Language, would give Nigerians who have less access to a formal education, a platform of education and social relevance. It would improve the standard of living as language barrier would be removed; enabling them to have access to applications to improve their daily lives etc.
In a nutshell, it would bring the world to everyone who can read and write in Pidgin, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa.