Facebook now in Swahili–mostly

I can’t see it at the moment and apparently others can’t either, but Facebook now has a language option for Swahili as was reported on the BBC.
Obviously, this is pretty great news and while one could ask, “Why is this necessary? English is a common language anywhere Swahili is spoken.” it misses the point that having the ability to use a language spoken by 110 million people (Wikipedia differs on the amount) is most important. That’s actually a lazy myth that everyone speaks English in addition to Swahili as not everyone does. Yes, it’s common, but it isn’t ubiquitous, thus this Facebook option (as well as Maneno’s [shameless plug]) are crucial to removing linguistic barriers. Also language is a key part of culture and identity. If you don’t believe this, then you probably live in the US…
That 110 million speakers figure is impressive, but given the generally paltry internet connectivity of Eastern African, that figure diminishes a great deal. Of course, this is changing. Whether Facebook realizes it or not, positioning themselves with language options such as Swahili and eventually Hausa/Zulu is going to have them at the ready for whenever higher speed internet does reach a greater part of population. I’m sure that they are very aware of this positioning though, just like a slew of other companies including Microsoft, Google, and Nokia who know that the one billion people of Africa are the last huge market left in the world. While I cringe at the forthcoming advertisements littered with spears, huts, and lions, at the same time lets keep our fingers crossed that we’re on the verge of shifting from an Aid Africa to an Africa that is truly part of proper world trade.
By way of an update, all of this news is premature. After having it explained as to how you actually turn on this language version, I saw that it’s about 80% complete. So in other words, once you find it and turn it on, your experience may be mixed. Hopefully all the publicity will get the version to 100%, but in the meantime, it’s a lot like a new car that’s missing its doors. Hopefully BBC will let us know when it’s actually done.
Facebook now in Swahili--mostly

5 Replies to “Facebook now in Swahili–mostly”

  1. Yes, I assumed that that article had something to do with Fula on the Facebook, but of course, I couldn’t read much more than that. :)

    Welcome to the site, Saajo.

  2. Wonderful news. Hope to view the complete Swahili version. Good start and far sightedness!

  3. When Facebook makes a new language available, it does not automatically switch users to the new language unless their browser settings are already set to that language, Facebook spokesperson Elizabeth Linder said in an interview.

    “In the case of Afrikaans, for example, users whose browser settings were in Afrikaans would have been automatically switched over … If users’ browser settings are not in Afrikaans, they can choose to switch the language option,” Linder said. “On rare occasions, when we cannot detect browser settings, we do our best to use other information to ascertain whether or not the user is likely to use the new language. Users can change the language they prefer at any time.


  4. Yeah, unfortunately because there currently are no official browser releases in Swahili, people have to know how to go in and change their language preferences in their specific browser. It would be great if, once the Facebook in Swahili were fully released, that it would cause enough of a groundswell to motivate people to create a Swahili Firefox 3.5. That would be super cool.

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