13 July 2007

The Language of Freedom

This is yet another reason why free software is so important: it lets people take their control of their linguistic destiny, liberating them from the money-based decisions of companies who have no interest in such matters.

OpenOffice.org 2.3 is scheduled to be released in early September and will include locales for:

* Sango - Marcel Diki-Kidiri
* Lingala - Denis Moyogo Jacquerye
* Luganda - Martin Benjamin (and others)
* English (Ghana) - Paa Kwesi Imbeah

For speakers of these languages, an estimated 5,5+ million people, this work has impact in that they can for the first time correctly choose dates and times for their language and country and adjust the behaviour of OpenOffice.org to cater for other cultural conventions.

But more critically in the long term it means that they can now create documents correctly tagged as having being written in that language. For most Africans who do not have locale support for their language they will traditionally write the document in their language while the computer assumes it is written in American English. While this works it is causing inestimable long term damage; search engines cannot find Lingala documents, we cannot draw text from Sango documents to help build spell checkers or do language research. But now for these languages and for users using OpenOffice.org they can create documents correctly labeled and in the future help researchers and users of their content access it correctly.

2 comments:

Bryce said...

That software sounds like such a great idea! Thank you for sharing this information.

Here's a site for Sängö speakers that will also allow them to use the Internet in their own language:

Sängö wiki browser

glyn moody said...

Thanks for the link.