I was at a conference in London during the last quarter of 2017, where it was highlighted that 52% of all websites are in English but only 25% of the global population understands English (and a smaller % speak it!). This percentage is slowly decreasing now, from what it used to be, but it is up to each one of us, to create content in our local languages and for our own requirements, unless we want our children to be exposed to the current amount of Americanised content and suffer from princess syndrome as a result. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.
We are all different from one another and thank goodness for that, where I live in South Africa, it’s precisely our diversity that make our lives interesting, but most searches we do for apps, music, movies or news deliver us with American content. Wouldn’t it be healthier if we had a greater variety to choose from to discover content that was more relevant or appropriate for our children, cultures and languages?
The only way to get there is for all of us to take responsibility for creating content in our own languages that is relevant to our respective cultures. Not only will this improve our children’s sense of identity but also their dignity and pride. If we think we’re not able to create content, at least we can search for it and download it (and pay for it, if we feel it’s good enough), so we can support local creators and encourage more of it.
The internet is like an animal that needs to fed. It becomes more of that which it is given. Our Google searches for local language content or information will become more accurate when we continuously feed it. Google’s search algorithms keep learning and improving in the background with information that it receives to ultimately produce us with better search results. More content equals better machine learning and better results for us.
Xander Apps were created four years ago to support educational content for young children in local languages. When we first started there were absolutely no apps for young kids in languages like Xhosa or Zulu in South Africa, and equally little for in Shona or Swahili for the rest of Africa. We couldn’t use Google Translate for our translations, as it either didn’t exist (Xhosa and Shona were only added to Google Translate in 2016) or we couldn’t trust it (Swahili and Zulu had already been added but were lacking huge amounts of data).
By 2016 Google Translate supported only 13 African languages, today there are far more languages and the information is more accurate. The only way for us to keep improving this and making the Internet and digital future more relevant to our own lives is to keep feeding it. We wouldn’t want a future where we all end up with less diversity, less heritage and only a few single dominant forces. Some ways ideas in which we can do this is to blog in our own languages, share local poems, songs, and stories. Upload local videos onto YouTube, contribute to Wikipedia about people, places, information that you’re familiar with, or contribute to Google Translate here https://translate.google.com/intl/en_ALL/about/contribute.html. Easiest of all, support creators by searching for local content, downloading it and paying for it.