Swahili swerves into the internet age


Swahili newspapers for sale on the University of Dar es Salaam campus.

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Swahili, the language that blossomed hundreds of years ago on the trade winds of the Indian Ocean, splashed into the internet age this June with the launching of the Swahili version of Facebook.

It was only the latest boost for one of the world’s most broadly spoken indigenous African languages. Swahili’s caretakers — academics, writers, researchers and politicians — have long dedicated themselves to keeping the language relevant in times of quickly changing technology.

Nowhere is better suited to lead Swahili into the electronic era than Tanzania, the most thoroughly Swahili-speaking country in the world. A steady stream of foreigners comes to Tanzania to study the language, called Kiswahili by its native speakers. In 2004, researchers at the University of Dar es Salaam helped launch Jambo OpenOffice, an open-source Swahili office suite for the Linux operating system. Swahili literature and newspapers in Tanzania are thriving. Continue reading…

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