Tag: Africa

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Catch the Pidgin at the BBC: Digital Flight of Fancy?

Language, Localization Culture, Personalization and Design

Delighted to see that the BBC has started a Pidgin Digital service for West African audiences.

BBC introduces Pidgin for Digital Audiences in West Africa (Image source: BBC)

BBC introduces Pidgin for Digital Audiences in West Africa (Image source: BBC)

I’ve long been fascinated by the notion of pidgin (or a pidgin language). For some of course, it’s a betrayal of “pure” language learning and standards. Fundamentally, however, pidgin is a popular and simple way for people to communicate with each other when they don’t share a common language. What’s wrong with that? Pidgin is a lingua franca in its own right. The use case is nothing that Google isn’t trying to do with the Google Pixel Earbuds!Pidgin is a lingua franca in its own right. Click To Tweet

What’s Pidgin?

So what is pidgin, exactly? Well, the BBC describe it, in this context, as “a mix of English and local languages enabling people who do not share a common language to communicate”.

We might think of it as a kind of hybrid oral “gisting”. It’s certainly fascinating to listen to! Languages and how people communicate evolve all the time. Check out the difference between a Pidgin and Creole language for example.

The Irish Pidgin Fancier

As an Irish person and speaker of “urban” Irish (or Gaeilge – not “Gaelic”), pidgin resonates strongly with me. There’s also clear evidence of a pidgin emerging with the Irish language. This development was pointed out by Brian Ó Broin (no relation) in this article from the Irish Times, “Schism fears for Gaeilgeoirí“, a few years ago. Brian has also written about the changing demographics of the Irish language for MultiLingual.

Pigeon Man on Dublin's Liffey Boardwalk (Image source: Ultan O'Broin)

Pigeon Man on Dublin’s River Liffey boardwalk (Image source: Ultan O’Broin)

Perhaps, the pidgin approach offers a way for the Irish language to thrive in rural Gaeltacht as well as urban areas and a way for all Irish language lovers to all communicate more (until we agree on emoji). Certainly, as pointed out by Irish President Michael D. Higgins recently, the compulsory approach to teaching the Irish language in Ireland has failed.

A more human-centric way of encouraging people to communicate using Irish is needed. Of course, Duolingo can help address our Irish language learning requirements too! Again, it’s voluntary. (Oh, “Catch the Pigeon“?)A more human-centric way of encouraging people to communicate using Irish is needed. Click To Tweet

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Fitness Bands for Christmahanakwanzika*? Ponder the L10n

Personalization and Design

Fitness bands and devices are massively popular (I am a major offender), but that may come under pressure from other wearable tech soon (translation: smart watches). Perhaps one of those little devices will turn up as a gift for you around this time of year.

I just noticed this Fitbit gamification badge pop up in my email. Very nice to be encouraged sure, but I am not so sure that this really reflects what Africa is about. You may have a view about this. Find the comments, if so.

Fitbit Gamification Badge for Achieving 8,000 KMs. More to Africa than monkeys and bannanas.

Fitbit gamification badge for achieving 8,000 KMs. More to Africa than monkeys and bananas.

Perhaps, the topic of wearable technology and the localization of its various components and methods will be one for 2015’s conferences, blogs, articles, and so on.

* Christmas, Hannukkah, Kwanzaa (aka Christmahanakwanzika), or as we say in Ireland, “whatever you’re havin’ yourself”.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Who is the Language Industry's Chocolate Apple? Comics, Technology, and Culture

Localization Culture

I’ve previously written about the uptake of the comic form in technical communications and some of the translation and cultural challenges.

As part of Oracle’s research into the use of comics as a way of educating technical writers about DITA, I was astounded by the wide range of subjects covered by Japanese manga (漫画). Now, we have Sweet Android Highschool added to that list, chronicling the exploits of the main Android vendors, each in the form of a character: Moto-Laura-chan (Motorola), Sam-Sung-chan (Samsung), H-T-Syee-chan (HTC), Elle-G-chan (LG), Soni-Eri-chan (Sony Ericsson).

Sweet Android Highschool, image credit: weekly.asci.jp

Apple is also in the cast (Apple-kun), naturally.

Sadly, we don’t hear much about comics translation and cultural issues through the usual channels in our industry. Certainly, comics is a serious business–not just for laughs or for kids–and an engaging and interesting conference topic. From interpreting the life of Steve Jobs in manga form to translating TinTin to communicating life saving information in developing countries with low literacy rates there’s plenty of scope for discussion.

Definitely, conducting some user experience research into the use of comics in Europe (France or Belgium perhaps?) and Japan, or other countries in Asia, is something I would be interested in doing.

If you have suggestions for research into the translation and cultural aspects of comics–or any other observations–add ’em using the comments.

Anyone for a manga chronicle of Language Services Provider shenanigans? Who is the industry’s “Chocolate Apple“?

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Ethnography in User Experience, the African Angle

Blogos, Language in Business, Localization Culture

I get to advise on global user experience (UX) stuff for Oracle applications, so I am always on the lookout for research opportunities in local markets and for information that might lead us there.

The Everyone Speaks Text Message article in the New York Times (a surprisingly great source of articles on translation, language and cultural issues, by the way) is very revealing about the importance of knowing local users and how they use their technology in work and everyday life: their user experience, if you like.

N'Ko script image available from WikiPedia. Public domain.

Sure, that’s one great message there about how technology (and conventions such as Unicode) is helping the N’Ko language thrive, but read on and you come across information about how that technology needs to be designed to take into account other local usage factors:

Dabo says it’s possible to build a cheap cellphone with N’Ko as its language, a camera and slots for two SIM cards — a necessity in Africa, where reception is often spotty.

From a UX perspective, nothing can beat researching a local market like getting out there and living and working with real users for a while and understanding the context of use, and mobile phone-based usage is no different: ethnography.

For example, did you know that M-Pesa (pesa is Swahili for money), a mobile money transfer app that made the mobile money market in Kenya so exciting and innovative, is now the most used app in the world, with 200 transactions per second? You can read more about mobile ethnographic methodology done by Oracle on the Usable Apps website.

With over 620 million mobile connections as of September 2011, Africa has overtaken Latin America to become the second largest mobile market in the world, after Asia. Mobile usage in Africa has important developmental consequences too, and mobile computing reflects that. Check out iCow for example.  But that’s not all.  Just as accessibility requirements make life better for everyone so too can the needs of developing markets result in user experience improvements in more fortunate regions. M-Pesa in this case making mobile payments–through Near Field Communication (NFC)–seem all the more natural.

We must be wary of treating Africa as one homogenous economic market too, as this excellent GMS World report illustrates, remembering the range of languages and complex political and cultural dynamics at work there.

On a UX level, is no single user profile for mobile phones and apps in Africa anymore than there is in any other region either. For some interesting mobile personas for the region, and the requirements for the phones themselves, see the excellent Foolproof UX report Mobile and Africa: Are Smartphones Really Smart? by Souleymane Camara.

Said it before, but we don’t hear enough about the need for UX in our industry, or about cultural, localization or translation (or indeed UX) issues in Africa.  Our loss. Mobile phone usage and how it is revolutionizing lives in Africa is one of the big stories for 2011 (and 2012).

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Africa Corps

Localization Culture, Translation Technology

We don’t hear enough about African localization and technology. I’ve said this before, I know. So, here are a collection of links to investigate further and get you thinking.

So many possibilities to explore: the role of mobile technology, development, micro-entrepreneurs, innovation, community translation, machine translation, new markets, and more. We know there are problems on that continent, but we need to think about more than poverty and consider how Africans are helping themselves. In some ways, they’re ahead of the rest of us in thinking about the possibilities offered by technology. They have to be.

Really love the last one. I’d also love to see Africa as a section in a future localization conference. Seems pretty hollow all this talk of information poverty there without hearing it from the people themselves, or indeed holding the event on the continent itself – with easy access for all.

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+ posts

Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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