Open source world gets an Afrikaans spellchecker

Published by Tectonic

A free Afrikaans spell-checker was released last week by South African organisation Afrikaans is one of the most widely spoken languages South Africa. The spell-checker allows users to spell check emails and documents in Afrikaans.

Over the past two years the project has been at the forefront of translating popular free software tools into indigenous languages such as Xhosa an Zulu.

The Afrikaans spell-checker software is free under an Open Source license, which means there are no licensing fees and no costs to acquiring the program. It works with the office suite as well as the Mozilla Web browser, and runs on both Windows and Linux.

Dwayne Bailey of says the project includes the work of a broad community of developers. He says building and converting the internal spell check files was based on existing work and efforts of many people all over the world. Users are encouraged to join the community who continue to improve the spell-checker on an ongoing basis.

The initial word list was created by Bernard Nieuwoudt, who used it to spell check his Masters thesis in the mid eighties. Dwayne Bailey of was instrumental to the word list being released under an Open Source license. ”With an Open Source license we have ensured that the spell-checker remains a public resource. Any improvements to the word list and engine have to be given back to the community”, explains Bailey.

Bailey says the largest part of this project has involved tracking down the original developers of parts of the spell-checker in places as far afield as New Zealand and London, to request the re-licensing of their work under an Open Source license.

On other languages Bailey says ”would welcome the participation of other language speakers in creating word lists for their languages, such as Zulu or Sotho.”

Craig Adams, of the South African marketing team says ”the Afrikaans dictionary is the first South African language component available for and we hope that the release of this dictionary will attract many more contributors to the ongoing effort to translate the office suite into as many South African languages as possible.”

The release of the spell-checker coincides with beta testing of a Zulu version of that has recently been completed by The project is looking for language feedback from first-language speakers before the official release early this year. Computer users who speak Zulu are encouraged to install, use and test the software, and help ensure the quality of the translations.

The Afrikaans spell-checker can be downloaded from and and will be included in future CD releases of and Mozilla.