After years of user lobbying, Swahili has become the first African language to be recognised by Twitter. Twitter now detects Swahili words and offers a near-perfect translation – as it does with most other foreign languages. This makes for a refreshing change for Africans, given that for the past decade no African language had been afforded the same differentiation on the platform, instead being clumped together under the tag “Indonesian”.
This has been a gross oversight: More than 10 percent of the African continent speaks Swahili, making it the most spoken common language in Africa, followed by Amharic and Yoruba. Swahili is spoken in Tanzania, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Mayotte, Mozambique, Oman, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda and in part of the UAE. Ultimately, about 5 million people speak Swahili as their native language, and a further 135 million speak it as a second language.
On the downside, the transition on Twitter has not been fully completed – the language has not yet been added to the language settings and some translations fall short of conveying the essentials of the message.
We agree. While #Swahili has finally made the cut as the first native African language, literally days ago after pressure brought to bear on @Twitter, we believe more can be done. At the least, all the top 10 most spoken languages should be properly indexed.#AfricanLanguagesDay https://t.co/lZDotcH3F3
— African Languages Day (@AfriLanguages) May 3, 2018
Nevertheless, this is definitely a win for users of social media, who rallied under the #SwahiliIsNotIndonesian and #TwitterRecognizeSwahili hashtags and made this development and recognition possible.
We made noise, a lot of noise;
Regarding #SwahiliIsNotIndonesian and #TwitterRecognizeSwahili
We take this earliest opportunity to say thank you to @Twitter for listening.
Thank you for recognizing Swahili – #KiswahiliKitukuzwe @Swahilihub @Taifa_Leo pic.twitter.com/yY9FsVQYHV
— MakeItKenya (@BrandKenya) May 3, 2018
Hi @MariaSTsehai, we're so inspired by de many #Kiswahili speakers who tweet in their language. Now, more than ever, they can do so without worrying that de world will not "hear" them. @Twitter has finally heard us… de first native African language is now properly indexed here pic.twitter.com/QoriWyOeZD
— African Languages Day (@AfriLanguages) May 6, 2018
TWITTER RECOGNISES SWAHILI AS A LANGUAGE:
USA based social networking site Twitter recently added the capability to detect Swahili words in tweets & to translate them. Kiswahili which is widely used in East Africa, is Kenya's National language & it unites the people of Kenya. pic.twitter.com/TMzgWU1IXu
— Ministry of Sports and Heritage (@moscakenya) May 7, 2018