News: a panel discusses endangered languages at the Global Voices Online Summit in Nairobi

For language enthusiasts, this is a very exciting time to be in Nairobi (Kenya): bloggers from 120 countries are gathering to discuss issues related to citizen media:

Global Voices convenes a biennial Summit which brings together contributing members with a wider community of global bloggers, technologists, scholars, journalists and others interested in sharing ideas on developments in online citizen media spearheaded by people around the world.

This event is more than just an occasion to practice your Bulgarian or Malagasy skills. As a matter of fact, endangered and underrepresented languages were the topic of discussion of a panel composed of Eddie Avila of Rising Voices, Boukary Konate, Abdoulaye Bah and Oliver Stegen.

The main issue at hand was how less-represented languages could harness online tools.

Abdoulaye sees blogging as one of the only ways to keep the language alive. There are many blogs in Fulani. Online videos are another way the language is represented online, bypassing the challenge that more people speak than write with the language.

At the internal summit last weekend, a group of Global Voices contributors shared ideas on how to support language communities facing challenges to have their voices heard on the Internet.

On this occasion, Boukary Konate noted that when he approached the Institut des Langues Nationales in Bamako (Mali) about promoting the use of Bambara online, they retorted that it was impossible to type this language on a computer! They were referring to the 4 characters used in the Bambara orthography which do not exist on regular qwerty or azerty keyboards. These technicalities have now found a number of solutions:

Someone developed a Facebook / Twitter application that supports Bambara, allowing people to post statuses in their native tongue

In the case of Aymara, the translators access the web from a cybercafé, which limits their capacity to contribute and poses financial constraints as well.

Global Voices Online is committed to language diversity and works closely with a team of volunteer translators to amplify stories from around the world in more than 30 languages.

More about the Global Voices Online Summit on the summit blog.

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