Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup

Transcript - Translation and localization services for African Languages

A conversation with Ady Coulibaly

Published onFeb 06, 2023
Transcript - Translation and localization services for African Languages
key-enterThis Pub is a Reply to


Jo: Welcome to another episode of Access 2 Perspectives Conversations. Today we're here with Ady Coulibaly from Ghana. I'm glad you could join us, Ady. Thanks for joining us. 

Ady: Thank you so much, Havemann. 

Jo: You can call me Jo. 

Ady: Okay. Alright. Thank you so much, Jo, for the invitation. I'm really glad to be on your podcast. 

Jo: The honor is all mine. So, everyone, Ady works as a consultant at a company called Bolingo in Ghana. And Boilingo is basically a consultancy to foster language diversity and overcome language and cultural barriers across Africa. And Ady is specialized… or the way I found out about your work was at the Multilingualism in Africa conference that happened, I think it was last month, where you reported about one of your projects for localizing languages or African languages or localizing knowledge through language. I'm new to that concept, even though we do quite a bit of translational work now with Africarxiv. But we hear more about that from you. So could you start by introducing yourself and telling us about a shortcut of your journey that led you to the work you do today with Bolingo? 

Ady: All right, so as you mentioned, my name is Ady Namaran Coulibaly, and I'm a feminist, so it's something I always like to mention when I have the opportunity. I really like to talk about women's empowerment, and its importance. So my journey into the localization and local services industry started in 2016 when I got admission into a Master's program. So I did a Masters in Conference interpreting at the Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters, which is found in Boya in Cameroon, in the southwest region of Cameroon. And that program was really a very defining moment of my life because it was so challenging, so stressful. I don't know if other interpreting programs are this way, but it was really stressful. But it was very interesting because interpreting actually challenges you to think and to really be abreast with so much information. It also refines a lot of skills like mental dexterity and your capacity to remember a lot of things and all that. So that program was really important. Particularly important when it comes to African languages was a course we did that was community interpreting. So we had this course. It was not only community interpreting, but also community translation. So during this course, we had the opportunity to translate and interpret in our native languages. And although the professor at the time, Professor Tione, didn't understand our languages, he was able to tell us where we made mistakes, where we could improve. And you can imagine students coming from all over the continent of Africa being in one class. And so the diversity of languages was really, really striking. And that course was really important for me, and I enjoyed it. So after that program, I returned to Ghana, and then I went to do a one year Masters in philosophy in Pretoria. So I did a human rights program for one year. Then I came back very excited. I was thinking about what to do next. And then, of course, COVID-19 struck. And during that time, I had the time, the opportunity to reflect over what I really wanted to do. And that's when Bolingo was actually born. 

Jo: And, yeah, that's where the journey actually began. That's one more example of what good the pandemi brought us into this world. Like, out of necessity, sometimes good things arise and more or less consider. I'd like to ask you, because you mentioned the beginning, that you question about feminism and women's rights. Do you feel that language is a catalyst for achieving gender equity? I didn't get the question. Do you see a connection between your activities and the passion you have for filing for women's rights through feminism and you see a connection with that and local languages? How using the local language can either catalyze equity or sometimes maybe also hinder, like, what's the role in language or multilingualism, particularly to women's empowerment? 

Ady: That's a very interesting question also because I haven't thought about it in that length. From my perspective, I see that when we have more women being in these positions of influence and leadership, we are able to also impact and influence because, for instance, when I'm making a hiring decision in my company, I always make sure that we have enough space for women and ladies. So that's one key part of it. Regarding the impact of local languages on women, I think we might need some research. But so far, the data that I have seen, In Ghana for instance, there is data on the recent population census about the speakers, various speakers of native languages, but their data is not broken down into how many women are literate or that could be something to think about for research purposes. 

Jo: Yeah, maybe we can identify some which are already well, maybe there's already literature available. But I also haven't looked at the connection at all. It just occurs for me to ask you, because you mentioned both and there's certainly room for more research in this direction.

Now at Bolingo, what are the kind of activities that you do with Bollingo and your team? What are frequent inquiries you get for activities and services to provide to other organizations, to regional or transregional, maybe events? 

Ady: So, currently our main services are Translation, Interpretation, Publishing and Voice project or media localization. Interestingly, most of our clients reach out to us for local languages, especially our clients that are out outside the continent of Africa. They reach out to us for localization into African languages, but those that we have in the continents usually reach out to us for the colonial languages. So most of our clients are NGOs that want to translate maybe their annual reports or they want to have conversations in various languages, and so they reach out to us. So, yes, most of our work is into local languages. And last year, for instance, we were able to work on 15 languages, including Kirundi, Somali, Tuandra, Shona, and many East African and Southern African languages, and some West African languages as well. 

Jo: That's very interesting. Okay, could you please explain what language localization means, I assume, and also we talked before, and I was also attending your presentation at the Multilingualism conference. So from what I understand is you contextualize through translation but also cultural. And like, by adding cultural context to a piece of text, for example, is that it? Like translating word to word is not enough. You need to also culturally contextualize the information. 

Ady: Yes, go ahead, please. 

Jo: I was just going to add, like, what's the typical process to do that or workflow? How do you approach a translation project?

Ady: All right, thank you so much. As I explained during the Multilingualism week, I had a presentation. I was talking about localization specifically, what are some of the things to do and some of the things to avoid when working on the localization project. So I give the perspective of translators, and then I give the perspective of project managers that are working on it. Essentially, localization has to do with creating rather, translating in a way that takes into account the cultural aspect of a language. Not only the cultural aspect, but many other aspects that have to do with a particular country. For instance, the way in which they write their dates, for instance, the currencies, you might want to take into account some of their favorite colors and so on and so forth. So localization as to explain it is usually bigger in scope than translation. And so it could involve, for instance, having to translate, let's say, for instance, TikTok into maybe Asante Twi or into Bombara. So for those kinds of platforms, they are so big that there's so much there's so many elements that go into translating or localizing these platforms. You'd have the technical part of it, you have engineering, and then you have your translators and all that. So you really have to think about a lot of things when doing localization. And because we've had the opportunity to handle some of these projects at Boilingo, it's given us some experience both interesting and of course, the unfortunate part of it has been very challenging sometimes for some localization projects. So to answer your question about what the processes are, am I not able to give all the processes because of course it depends on each project. But usually you'd have to agree on the target locale with a client. So if a client says for instance, localize my platform into a language and that language has varieties, you have to agree on which varieties of the language you're going to localize into. There's an example I always give. For instance, if the client says localize my content into Twi. Twi is part of the Akan group of languages and it's spoken in Ghana. And so with the Akan group of languages, you have various languages in there. You have Asante twi. You have Fanti. You have Akria Pimp twi. And so you have to agree with the client that okay, we're going to localize into Asante Twi. But then from there you can now of course get your team together, go through the onboarding process and the checklist and all that. And then usually the first thing that we do is to put together a glossary with a team because the glossary is what is going to guide the team with regards to the recurring words, the common words. And that really helps them to ensure consistency in what the body are doing. So putting them together, the glossary is so important. And then after that you would have to go through the materials for the project. There are language style guides, various guides that would be helpful when you're localizing. But the client has a particular way in which you want to share a message. For instance, most social media platforms want the message to sound very positive. So even if you're translating something that is negative, they want you to translate it in a way that sounds positive. And so you have to take all these nuances into account when you're doing your localization. And of course with Localization there is language quality assurance. You have to various processes to ensure quality and you have to do internal quality assurance and then the client will also do quality assurance. It's really wide and encompasses a lot. But what I like about it is that it's also a learning process because for each project we always learn something, we sometimes plan for the project and then there are setbacks and then we have to learn from it and then move on. So it's been uninteresting process. 

Jo: Yeah, I imagine it's like huge learning there. As I mentioned to you, we're also currently involved in a translational initiative with three other organizations, all of which are based in South Africa, and ST Communications, which is a company specialized in translating into African languages. And then Masakana, which is a cross continental organization with their lead in South Africa, almost registered or in the process of being registered in Kenya. And then Science Link, which is a science communication consultancy where we took research articles that are first authored by African scholars in English science links providing short summaries like lay summaries, short summaries of the research article because initially we thought we would translate the whole research article. So now there's way too many technical terms, and it would be too much work to translate 180 or 200 or more research articles with all the new terms to be coined, like be used in that language or in six African languages for the first time ever, simply because these terms were so specific to research projects of various disciplines that they had not been present in the languages we chose for translation. So therefore we figured, OK, a more feasible approach to then translate into lay summaries and to translate these which are closer to the actual spoken languages into the African languages. And there also, like this is now being done by translators like your team as well. And also here we are building glossaries to start with, which we also share upon conclusion of the project. So I have a slight idea. I'm not involved in the translational process personally, but I have a slight idea of the amount of work that goes into it. And I'm also personally invested and interested. And I'm convinced that research, if it's done on a local level, needs to be assessed on a culturally specific kind of perspective as well. But oftentimes we forget about it or we ignore it, or I think many researchers are just not aware of how important it is. And I'm glad that we get to talk today because I'd really like to ask you if you can think of an example where it occurs to you through the work that you're doing, how important it actually is to consider the cultural context of a story or maybe also going back to who your regular or typically clients are. Like, have you worked with scholars, also people to translate research articles? Because we tend to think there's a whole other level of complexity to translate research articles. I think it's maybe not, maybe we just think it's more I don't know, more whatever. But the complexity, I think, just comes with a cultural context. And what we in scholarly works might see as more complex is the complexity of the research topic, which is complex intrinsically as well, but then often also simplified through the research approach. So I don't know if I'm making sense though. So the question for you now is I think you already said that of course localization is important for the reasons you mentioned. But yeah, if you could give an example how exactly is an example? Like, what's the importance of the localization of information? 

Ady: Okay, so before I answered that question. I just want to mention that at Bolingo we also developed localization guides for African countries and in this guide to talk about the cultural and linguistic aspects of each country. So. We've done it for Ghana. We've done it for Burkina Faso, Cameroon, and Senegal. Yes. So these guides are very interesting. And when you are asking your question, my mind went back to these guides because in this case we talk about some of the things that are important to consider. For instance, we say that if you come to Ghana and let's say you are, even if you're not in the localization industry, but you are an event company that wants to organize an event, you would have to take into account the fact that there's a particular culture of lateness that in a way, would impact on your event. So if your event is going to start at 09:00 A.m., you might want to say, okay, let me write 07:00 A.m. So that people have 2 hours to join and all that. And then also there's an aspect of politics. So let's say for instance, you're creating publicity materials for your company and you use some colors. Let's say you use, I think green and white. Some colors are political. And so if you use too many of those colors, then you're kind of associated with a particular political party. These are some of the things to think about. Just thinking about the culture of the people would really help you even in putting together your materials or your content for what you want to do. So yeah, I think it's a very key point. 

Jo: Yeah, same here, obviously, but I think I've done research. Okay. I'm also European myself and a lot of what we find online nowadays in Europe and northern America and the biggest scholarly publishers are also based in either the United States or Europe. There's also many others around the globe. And there's also research being published in languages other than English. Well, maybe not any language or all languages, but a whole lot of languages other than English. And then also even for English, like you said, for Twi, there's various versions of English. So we have American English, British English. Most publishers differentiate between those two only. But then there's also Canadian English, Australian English, New Zealand English. I would also add South African English, Kenyan English, Ghanian English. Why would that be considered different? It's just another version of what used to be a colonial language is now in many countries still some sort of a trading or even official language. So anyways, that alone is, I think, another episode in its own worth but back to translating into African languages now. Okay, now for research. And then if you, in my case I'm German and I've also studied in Sweden, I know for a fact that it's also an issue in Sweden for many researchers to kind of be incentivized to switch their working language to English even if they study or German research topics. And that leads to the fact that you lose or don't even consider some of the information. Maybe you do conceptually or we do, but maybe we don't know the English language well enough to embed the information in that language, which is not our mother tongue. So I think there's two gaps in the system, like once, to document in another language is not our own or that we have learned along the way and probably don't know well enough to also carry the information in another language that we don't know well enough. And then there might also be information lost again, as the readers of research articles try to extract information from the English narrative, which again was written by nonnative speakers, went through some editorial processes in peer review, so might have been altered also for the style of the language. So that information might be misleading unintentionally by the authors or editors. Am I making sense? So I don't know if that really happens, but I think that's a real danger in how we practice research and by not considering or fostering multilingualism enough. So this is something I'm personally passionate about, and I want to just dive into a little bit deeper here with an expert on the show. Thank you for joining. What comes to mind when you hear me talking about these things? 

Ady: Yes. What comes to mind for me is the fact that for us in Africa, most of us grow up in a multilingual environment. And so you would grow up in a place where you can speak two or more other African languages. And so that in itself is really significant. And so from there, then we go to school. And usually in most schools here, from kindergarten, you're speaking English. So at home, your parents are speaking the native language most often. And then in school, you're speaking English. So there's that, what can I even call it? But there is that incoherence and inconsistency that happens. And so sometimes it's difficult for children at that stage to even be able to imbibe some of the concepts. And then in addition to that, there are some schools where they don't speak vernacular. Most schools in Ghana, for instance, tell the kids not to speak vernacular. And by not speaking vernacular you don't speak a native language while you're in school. And so this goes on and on. And you have instances where children make mistakes in English, they are laughed at. And people begin to think that fluency in English means smartness, some kind of smartness. And so it grows to the extent that even for those of us who start doing research, even when we are doing a research for a local community I think you brought my mind to that the last time you had a conversation where you said that we do research for local communities, but the information is not even in their language. And that was really a striking factor for me. And so I think that through this process, you know, from learning, not using your language, your native language as a medium of instruction in school, to being laughed at or making mistakes, grammar mistakes in English and all that, I think it compounds. And it goes to a stage where we begin to lack confidence in our languages. And because we lack confidence in our languages, I think it really has a lot of ripple effects. And so we end up not being very good in English and also not good in our native languages. And so it's something we need to think about. I think usually I talk about the policy part of it where we need to encourage teaching because we can't talk about sustaining our African languages when they are not being taught. And there are some countries in Africa where the languages are not being taught at all. An example is Coted'voire. There's no local or native language in Coted’voire that is being taught in schools. It's only French that is being taught currently. 

Jo: That’s so sad. 

Ady: Yes, exactly. And it's only recently that at least they're having that conversation about having some curricula in place for the native languages. And so there's really so many facets of the situation. But I think we can start with looking at the data that we have. I spoke about the data from the Ghana Statistical Service, where they have information about the speakers, the number of speakers, not only speakers, people who are literate in native languages. So that was interesting data to help. For instance, let's say they say 2 million people are literate in Asante Twi in so and so places. And they mentioned the areas, the geographical locations. And I think that for researchers, this kind of data could be very important. So that when you're doing your research and you want to also translate some parts of it, then you can think about how to popularize it, how to spread the message, what kind of format you want to put the content into, but at least you have a starting point. And then based on that, you can have confidence to say, okay, when I translate my content into my native language, there will be people available who will read it. And then the next step would be, now, how do I make that message accessible or available to them? 

Jo: That's great. It's a great approach. I also mentioned to you last time we spoke, African Science Literacy Network, and the founder of the network is Mahmoud Maina and he’s based in Brighton, England, and also on a really exciting next chapter in his career currently. And what I loved about that initiative was that he put a team together of science journalists or journalists generally, and researchers to again also translate research advocates that are living for, in this case, Nigeria, or of any general interest, and have researchers and journalists work together to convey information to the locals. And not in English, which many would probably also understand, but in Nigerian local languages. And I know that from some of your projects also. Which one was it now? You had the first or you have to bring to life the first website in Akan. 

Jo: Yeah, sorry. So please tell us more about that project and how it's being received by the audiences. 

Ady: Yeah, so in Ghana, the Akan language is very popular and it's used in the media. So the radio stations that have the most audiences use this language so they use Asante Twi to broadcast. And so you can imagine the audiences that they have. And most of these radio stations and TV stations that broadcast in Asante Twi in that native language surprisingly, when you go on their website they are publishing in English so they have articles that they write but everything is in English. And so at Bolingo we're just wondering and thinking about the situation and just wondering why they would broadcast in Asante Twi and then when you go on your website, everything is in English. And one interesting thing that we also heard is that even in the radio stations the content that they are reading in the native language is in English. That was quite interesting. So they are actually doing five translations but they are looking at it in English and then they are saying it in the native language, of course, because they've been doing it over and over again so it becomes easier for them. But it was really a foot for thought. So we said okay, why don't we try this experiment and have a website that is fully localized, that is fully in Asante Twi with all the strings in Asante Twi. So we chose two varieties of Akan. We chose Asante Twi and Fante and so we got people to write and these people that we got are people who have studied for a Bachelor of Art in those languages. Someone who studied a Bachelor of Art in Asante Twi Bachelor of Art in Fante. Most of them are teachers but we brought them in, we gave them some training on journalism and media writing and we taught them the angles from which you would want them to write. We would want them to write articles of information that are really very important, not information that is just today and it's gone. Something that people can really benefit from. And so we put this platform out. So it's actually the first platform that is fully, fully, fully in Asante Twi and Fante Twi and the reaction has been really great. We've had people saying they've been waiting for this for a long time and for the first month that we released it, we've had 2000 site visits. There is interest but I think what it's lacking is the confidence that we need to unlock. Yes, once we let people understand that there's confidence in your language, like using it to read in your language, of course there are some people who are not they can't read their language because they have the opportunity to study it back in school. But this platform would help them, I believe, because we also have audio so each article has an audio so when you are reading you can also listen to the audio and follow and also learn your language. So I think it's been a very exciting project and we are looking forward to expanding to other languages as well. 

Jo: Let me just quickly ask how it works. So the website would still be accessible also in English, but then it translated to two versions of Twi? 

Ady: No. So it's not available in English. So everything is in the local language, yes. And it's not translated, it's generated. 

Jo: Okay, sorry.

Ady:  It's content creation. 

Jo: Yes, but because you said it's two versions of Akan. So can you switch between the two, or is it always indicated? 

Ady: Exactly. 

Jo: Okay.

Ady:  So when you go on the site, you can choose Asante Twi or Fante, and then you go where you want to. 

Jo: Okay. Wow, that's brilliant. At Africarxiv, from the beginning, we encourage researchers to consider submitting research articles in their local language. And there are a handful, maybe countries in Africa who have a culture, a research culture in the local language other than Arabic, French or English or Portuguese, for example, in South Africa, is not well, Africaans, I don't know if you want to consider that. But also Xhosa and Zulu are becoming increasingly spoken and written about in scholarly works. And I think there's also journals, research journals that publish in those Southern African languages. Then in Tanzania, for sure, swahili, not so much in Kenya, but also in Kenya, you have Swahili journals which are mostly in print. Some of them are online, but then these cannot be picked up by the Western sort of, say, or Western European or North American scholarly indexing services and literature discovery tools, which is what we're trying to facilitate with Africarxiv. What I'm going at with this is I agree with you. Like there is a need to foster local languages for research or to speak and see online that African traditional languages need more visibility, for sure, anywhere and also in research. And I think if we come back towards the purpose of science and scholarship is usually many researchers or anybody would think and expect and also sign up so that research is here to serve societies,

of course, I would think, and probably you as well. Of course we need to localize the knowledge and also through language, like we said before from the onset, and how we design research projects, but also to make the gained knowledge then again accessible to society stakeholders, including the citizens, who will then consume the information in their local news outlets in their own language. So, yeah, basically that's what I want to say. 

Ady: Yeah, I may guess, but I just want to ask a question about some of the ways that such information is disseminated. For instance, the research studies are translated or localized into the native languages. What are some of the ways? Because I think reaching the local people might have some specific approaches, or it could be based on the local, right?

Jo: Yeah, either way, and both agree, I think there's always a need. To like. There's also an increasing call and relying on machine translation. But I think our glossaries will never be precise enough to cater for local specificities. I think they can aid, but we will always need human beings as interpreters and translators to fine tune and reassure that information is being conveyed in the best possible manner. What was your question? Sorry.

Ady: Yes. The question was just about dissemination approaches after the information is translated into the native language, the research summary. 

Jo: Yeah. So the good thing is now that an increasing number of publishers, also Western publishers, who have been gatekeepers for the longest time, several decades now, are now opening up to allow also technical interfaces for researchers as authors of the research articles to submit the research article in presumably English or French or Arabic but then also to provide space, that is machine searchable for translation of the title of the work and a summary. And that's increasingly facilitated also from scholarly publishers point of view and journals or yeah, from there through technical aspects, which then also makes these databases searchable for African languages. If we manage to foster and increase an uptick of African scholars translating their own work into like and if it's just the summary of it, it's already to provide that information because the publishers will not have the resources. But a research team might be able to use their research budget because they also budget for dissemination, which means publishing in a research journal. But now with open science and open access, there's an additional call mostly also by research finders to budget extra for societal impact. And societal impact can only be achieved if you also consider a translational aspect. So this is probably where you will see an increase in inquiries from colors to your services. So this is basically where I know there's a few, very few companies and consultancies like yours who specialize in translating research works and the demand is huge, so brace yourself.

And it was really exciting because I said before that the research to translate research advocates is not unmanageable. So it's very much manageable. It's just that you probably want to work with either the researchers themselves or the science journalists who can help or maybe you can foster a department of colleagues within Bolingo to summarize the research in a way that is comprehensive by non scholars and also a shorter version of it. But that's totally doable. I mean, it's a couple of hours of work and that summary can then be translated. Basically our approach with the decolonized science project that I mentioned before. 

Ady: All right.

Jo: Yeah. So it's probably a lot of work coming your way. So opportunity for growth,

Ady: Indeed. 

Jo: Okay, what are your favorite projects to work on and what are other projects you would like to mention here and what kind of topics do you most enjoy? I'm sure you enjoy any aspect of your work, but what sticks out from the portfolio project that you have run so far as an oh, this was particularly interesting because…

Ady:  yeah, so there's one localization project that we're currently working on for a social media platform and for me it stands out. It stands out, let me just repeat again. So there is one localization project that we are currently working on at Bolingo. It's for social media companies, not allowed to say their name, but I just want to say that it really stands out because it's really brought us in the limelight of Localization in terms of what are those key elements that we should take into account, what are some of the challenges? Because the challenges are numerous and sometimes they are mind boggling because you have to manage teams, teams that are culturally different from you. You have to understand the team because some of the teams, there's that religious aspect where they have to pray at certain times, where they are not available. Some of the team members, most of the team would frequently say, for instance, I have family issues and because you're not in that culture, you're not able to really understand what it is. And so that's really been interesting for someone in localization. I myself, I really would have to learn about the culture of my team so that I can also adapt and also understand their methods of communication, how to communicate with them. That would have the most impact when I want to make a point because I read the quarter mark by Maya and she spoke about some of these things. And so all these things apply in Localization because you're managing a team and you're managing a project. And so I think the human element of understanding how to communicate with your team is really key. And that's just one thing I've learned in this project and the fact that it also challenges me and I learn new things all the time after that has been my really defining moment in my career as a language professional and as someone who is into Localization. So working on a big localization project for a social media platform, I think it's been interesting learning how it works, learning how the interface is, learning about user interface and understanding the key elements of what it takes to ensure a successful delivery of a project that is really interesting for me. 

Jo: Yeah, I agree. Also the bigger projects, they tend to have so many levels of, again, complexity, like technical aspects like I haven't even thought of before and such as deep learning curve and then team management and team communication, like you also mentioned. May I ask what is your working language in the Bolingo team? And I assume it's mostly English with international teams. And is the Bolingo team also international to use English or do you also use Ghanian languages to communicate internally or mix? 

Ady: Yes, so here in canoe we have some of our team members that are outside. But for those of us in Canada, each time we have team meetings, we actually speak a blend of English and the native language. That's what we do in our team meetings. So it's quite interesting. There's a team member who facilitates and he speaks Asante Twi, and he's always speaking the language. And the interesting thing is that because it's very popular, even though some others are not from that native language, I mean, it's not their native language. They are not from the ethnic group, but they still understand it. We use it usually during our team meetings, but in our email communications and everything else, we use English. 

Jo: Okay. And what I also found in an African context, in a country like Nigeria and even Ghana, sometimes it's difficult to start with one language. If you say, okay, we are looking at ten countries and we only have capacity for one language per country, and then a speaker of another language that's not chosen for that country might think, oh, why did you choose that language and not the one that I speak? So is there a suggestion or best practices you found for your team and your professional approach? Like, maybe there's a purely numerical or metric based approach that you how you decide over one language over the other in a multilingual country like Ghana. 

Ady: Yeah, so that's a very interesting point. Usually what we do is to watch the numbers, right? So we look at which group is the biggest ethnic group, which language is most spoken, for instance, in a particular area. So if it's a given a particular area, you would have to choose from, and the question that you're asking, of course, will depend on which area. So, for instance, if you come to a country like Ghana and you want to have just one language, I would suggest Asante Twi, because in terms of numbers, the language has the numbers right. But if you are targeting, for instance, a particular region, then you would have to use the language that is most spoken in that region. And so usually I think just the numbers help, although, of course it generates negative sentiment because people are very attached to their language and they would want their language to be considered beyond the financial returns or whatever. But for the purpose of collecting one language, yes, we usually use the numbers to decide and of course, the target region or the target area that you want to explore. 

Jo: Yeah, probably also the client wants and whatever their preferences might be, but then you can still inform them on what is best practice and an ethical approach to choosing one language over the other, if you have to choose. I'm also asking this because in a scientific context, we speak of lingua franca, like scientific languages, where there's a common assumption in Western Europe that English is the only and one and only lingua franca. Turns out it's not. There's also French, Arabic, Portuguese mentioned. Only for European and Euro-Asian context. And then obviously in India there's Hindu. Then in China there's Mandarin. We have Portuguese and Spanish for Latin America and Europe, French was already mentioned. And then across Africa there are also various lingua franca on a regional and local level. So it's really wrapping our heads around the concept of we live on one planet and we speak and live well. We speak thousands of languages per region across the planet, really. And information is embedded in languages.

I don't know a claim or a phrase. You want to continue, coming to an end of this episode? Because I would of course want to give you the last word. I just wanted to stress the importance of multilingualism for information sharing. Over to you. 

Ady: Yes, thank you. Yeah, I think increasingly we keep talking about diversity, and ensuring diversity in our use of languages is one of those things. And so to give an example, for instance, I mentioned that we do publishing as Bolingo, so we do multilingual publishing. So we are about to publish our first book, which is titled Amy series. And so this book is about the environment. It's about a girl that is passionate about saving the Earth and she does a lot of activities to actually make that dream happen. And this is a book that we've localized, and I'm saying localized because we've had to change her name in some of the translations. We had to change the food that she ate to meet the local culture. And we are translating this book into five languages, including two Ghanian, local languages. So there's one language called Evegbe, which is spoken in the Water region of Ghana, and then there's Asante Twi. So we chose those two. And we also chose Kiswahili, Arabic and Zulu. We wanted to have at least a language from each of the regions in the continent. So I think diversity is important. So just to mention that we chose, although it's not very well known, it's one language whose people are really attached to the language, they really are passionate about it. So we felt like, okay, why not also add this language to publishing for this book? So, yeah, I think it's a journey, and as long as professionals, we also have a role to play. And because we are sometimes sitting in places where we can contribute to such decisions. And as you mentioned, ethical decision making for our languages is very important. I think that alone is really great. It's an opportunity for us to influence and also have an impact in promoting multilingualism. So I appreciate the opportunity to be here as a guest for the podcast and I hope that my contributions were meaningful and helpful. 

Jo: Absolutely, of course. For sure I can testify and I'm sure every listener will say the same, but for this time around, it's only unilateral the information sharing. Listeners, you are very warmly invited to leave a comment to get in touch. You find all these details in the blog post and show notes to this episode. And yeah, if you have any questions about multilingualism, reach out to our team and we will also happily direct it further to Ady’s team and bollingo services. Thank you so much, Ady, for making time for this and speak to you soon again. All the best. 

Ady: Thank you. Alright.

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?