Published in Tectonic
Kiswahili speakers can now spellcheck documents in their own language. A group of developers taking part in the Africa Source joined forces – and resources – to develop the first-ever Kiswahili dictionary. The project, led by Jason Githeko of Kenya and Translate.org.za’s Dwayne Bailey produced the new dictionary in one of the training sessions during the conference.
The five day Africa Source conference, organised by Amsterdam-based NGO Tactical Technology Collective, has brought together a group of 60 of the best African open source developers from across the continent. More than 25 countries, including Benin, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, are represented at the workshop which is hoping to develop and improve relations between OSS developers on the continent.
According to Bailey, the inspiration for the Kiswahili dictionary came from Jason Githeko who approached him during the five-day workshop with a word list of more than 50 000 words. Translate.org.za has over the past few years translated a range of open source software – including Mozilla and KDE – into local South African Languages as well as creating dictionaries and spellcheckers for the OpenOffice.org application. In January the Translate.org.za team announced the release of an Afrikaans spellchecker. Bailey says, however, that the organisation has not previously worked wih languages from outside of South Africa.
Githeko says that he has been working towards creating a Kiswahili dictionary for more than five years. He says that when he started the project to create the dictionary in the late 1990s he approached Microsoft with the idea. The problem, he says, is that there wasn’t a language id in the Microsoft system for Kiswahili and he ended up at a dead end. He continued to collect Kiswahili words, however, with a view to finding another avenue for creating a localised dictionary.
It wasn’t until he met Bailey in Cape Town earlier this year and learned of the Translate.org.za project that he felt that there was a possibility that he could use the wordlist he had accumulated to build the dictionary he was looking for.
During a series of workshops and a skills sharing session at the Africa Source gathering, Githeko and Bailey worked on cleaning up the wordlist and preparing it to create the Kiswahili dictionary. During one of the mid-week sessions the final dictionary was created and released to the world of OpenOffice.org users.
Githeko says he is extremely pleased to have a working Kiswahili dictionary even if it is a little rough at present. ”I have been working on this project for more than five years. And in the end creating the spellchecker took only a day.”
Download the dictionary from: http://prdownloads.sourceforge.net/translate/sw_KE.zip?download.
Instructions on installing the dicionary can be found at: http://lingucomponent.openoffice.org/manual_instal.html