Google is nothing if not resourceful in creating new resources. Two days ago, those crafty buggers announced a very large expansion of search languages for their African portal pages. From the site, the rundown was:
This is good news for those who don’t necessarily speak the already established Google search languages of English, French, and Swahili that they offer in some capacity to these countries. Naturally, it doesn’t solve the issues of connectivity to just get on the internet, but it is definitely something good and I’m pleased to see it. This should of course be no shock to anyone given that when not blogging, I’m busy working to get as many languages as possible running for Maneno.
The biggest thing to me about this announcement from Google is the fact that it was all done by volunteers. This may at first seem quite cheeky given that Google has literally billions of dollars (yes, Dr. Evil would be proud) and they could quite easily pay folks to create these translations. I at first was a bit taken aback by this seemingly crappy way to save a buck, but then, I thought about how it is to run a multi-lingual operation. Yes, you can hire someone to work on it fulltime if there is the need and the money to pay them, but this is more of a piece of occasional work here and there. Plus, you get in to dialectical issues. While I’ve heard that Tanzanian Kiswahili is said to be better than Kenyan, who am I (pretend I’m someone with an O in my title at Google when I say this) to know the difference? I’m not. So… how do I choose the “one” person to create the translation.
There really are strength in numbers when it comes to these things and instead of having one, single voice that might be wrong for some people, you can potentially get a group to compromise on something that generally works for everyone. Yes, okay, they’re “crowdsourcing” the translations, but I have a bit of trouble with this word as it’s overused these day and often stops short of the true gravity of a project. While there are groups (maybe not crowds) of people working to create these translations, it doesn’t stop there. They are creating a community of their language on the web. And I admit that this is another one of the things that Maneno is trying to do in that we know, as does Google, that there needs to be more content out there in African languages, and it takes a group to make that happen.
In closing, I just want to add that if anyone out there who worked on these Google pieces would like to volunteer their time to work on the Maneno language matrix (it’s maybe two hours of work), we’d love to have an Amharic, Akan, Hausa, Lingala, and/or Yoruba version available. I’m just saying!