African languages are dying a fast death but academics and information technology companies around the world are working together to integrate new languages into various forms of software and technology.
Until now, tools for translation, spelling and grammar were primarily geared towards the mainstream Western languages like French and English. But now, technological companies are shifting their focus to make more African languages digital.
As more African nations are becoming tech savvy, industries are looking for ways to penetrate the market and technology companies are seeing the need to improve Human Language Technology (HLT) on the continent. This is important for both ongoing technological development and preservation of the African cultures in a digital age.
How Are Tech Giants Investing In African Languages?
Tech giants like Facebook and Google, are already investing in HLTs for African languages, partly to increase their reach and profits. Now, users can search for things on Google in various African languages. Companies like Microsoft are also incorporating African languages into spell checkers and grammar tools.
Digitalising African Languages: A Difficult Task
Digitising a language is hard and complicated. It requires extensive research and testing before reaching a stage of automatic implementation. More so, African languages require significantly more work than English as many African languages consist of sentences that are highly dependent on the context of the situation, have complex verbs and sentence structures, and are not easily open to automatic tools using structured data.
Researchers must then build grammar engines to generate basic sentences.
In spite of the difficulties, companies around the continent are starting to pool quality native-language documents that not only include accurate spelling and grammar but are also modern enough to be considered relevant.