By Ntombovuyo Ngaphu
As a passionate isiXhosa Mother Tongue 3 student at Rhodes University, I love to get involved in activities that have anything to do with my beloved language.
The first time I screamed “yay!” in class this year was when my Human Language Technology (HLT) lecturer, Mr. Msindisi Sam, invited our class to a translate@thon that took place on 21 March 2015 in the African Languages Department.
A translate@thon is a mass translation event where qualified translators and ordinary people who might not know anything about translation meet in one venue and work together to translate an online platform. This helps to convert a website that was previously established for a particular group of people so that it can cater for and accommodate another specific group. The fact that people can get to review their work at the end of the translation event makes the experience an even more exciting and fruitful one.
This was a great learning opportunity for me because I am very passionate about isiXhosa as a language and I want to do my honors degree in translation studies. And aside from the personal draw, there was also the great community aspect of translate@thon. Human Language Technology (HLT) is a semi- course under the isiXhosa MT 3 course which focuses on factors such the use and availability of African languages on the web. It then teaches us about things we could do to improve the standard of the isiXhosa language in technology and on the web of which translation and localization form part. Hence, translating this particular platform would be another way of promoting isiXhosa on the web.
Despite my excitement, I was quite disappointed to find out that my friends and I were the only people who had come to the event because I was hoping that other people would be excited about it as much as I was. Inside the venue was the MTN Chair of Media and Mobile Communications in the School of Journalism and Media studies at Rhodes, Professor Lorenzo Dalvit who is one of the main people who established the mobi-site called KeiskammahoekNOW that we were going to translate on the day. Professor Dalvit was accompanied by two of his colleagues and our HLT lecturer.
He warmly welcomed us and clearly explained that KKHNow is a NikaNOW mobi-site which has been mobilized for the Keiskamahoek area to enable its residents to distribute and share news and information while also promoting local businesses by allowing them to put up sales and advertisements on the site for free. The site also allows people to view local temperature and inform others or get information about important events that would be taking place in the area. He was also very excited about the fact that KeiskammahoekNOW would be translated into isiXhosa because that would mean that the residents of Keiskammahoek, who cannot read and understand English, will easily access the content contained in the website in their own language.
Being part of the group that did the translation, I discovered that as challenging as the process of translation might be, it is very exciting when you do it with a group of dedicated people who are also eager to see the end result of the translation.
“Translating this site has helped me to expand both my isiXhosa and English vocabulary because there are certain words that I was previously not confident about which I now know because I dealt with them during our translation,” said 3rd year Linguistics student, Olwethu Zeleni.
Professor Dalvit and Professor Alfredo Terzoli of the Computer Science Department received funding to develop KeiskammahoekNOW from the Department of Communication through Ikamva National e-Skills Institute (INESI). “We saw an opportunity for funding and seized it,” said Dalvit.
Platforms like KKHNow open up a space for people within certain rural areas to interact with each other and their surroundings and simultaneously develop themselves in the world of technology.