October 25, 2004

Computing in Zulu

Some people seem to have difficulty with the idea that people may like to use their own language, even if it is not particularly widely used. The folks at www.translate.org.za, a site devoted to a project to translate Free Software into the eleven official languages of South Africa, quote the following from an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Dwayne Bailey hears the question all the time. "Why bother translating software into isiZulu?" people ask him. "Who needs it? English is the language of global business -- you'd be better off spending your energy teaching people English. To which Mr. Bailey replies, quite simply, "Izixhobo kufuneka zisebenzele abantu, hayi abantu izixhobo. Isoftware sisixhobo ngoko ke kumele sisebenzele abantu ngolwimi lwabo lwasemzini!
Clear enough?

Bailey answered in Zulu to make the point that English is as impenetrable for a Zulu speaker as Zulu is for an English speaker. His answer means:

Tools adapt to people not people to tools. Software is a tool, so it must adapt to people and their language.

Posted by Bill Poser at October 25, 2004 04:50 PM