MADAGASCAR – Manao ahoana! That’s “Hello!” and “How are you” in Malagasy, which is the eighty-seventh and latest language to be added to Nokia’s Series 40 language library. Malagasy is the official language of Madagascar (the big island off the south east coast of Africa), and it’s also spoken in Réunion, Mayotte and the Comoros. Altogether, there are over 17 million speakers of Malagasy.
We asked, Tanja Ylänen, one of our language gurus why the team was keen to add new languages to the books. According to Tanja “You can’t underestimate the value of being able to communicate in your own language. We want to connect the next billion and we want to connect them in their local language wherever possible,” she said.
It takes about four months to add a new language and different languages have different complexities and quirks that have to be taken into account. Languages using other than Latin writing systems are obviously technically more challenging to implement (e.g. Arabic, Hebrew).
We asked, Tanja for some insights on issues that she and the team have to tackle when looking at adding a language, “Well, if you take Malagasy as an example, the language spreads from the two main dialects to over a dozen variants, so we have to do the research to choose the appropriate one. In this case we went with the variant considered the official form of the Malagasy language.
“Plus many languages have special features that have to be taken into account. For example, in Malagasy, the (@) sign has been in everyday use before it was commonly established as a symbol for email addresses. In Malagasy, the (@) sign frequently occurs in informal language as a short form for “amin’ny”, a preposition followed by the definite form, as in “with the”.”
With Malagasy under its belt the team is moving onto its next language…do you have any suggestions on what it should be?