First Swahili office suite released in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Published: 4 Mar 2005 (Wiki News, Brandon Stafford)

TanzaniaOn Monday, February 28, 2005, Jambo OpenOffice.org, the first Swahili office suite, was released at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The office suite was translated from the English version of OpenOffice.org, an open source suite based on Sun Microsystems' StarOffice. Jambo OpenOffice.org was translated by a multinational team including Swedish and Spanish programmers, as well as linguists from the University of Dar es Salaam. Monday's release included builds for Linux and Windows.

The office suite has four components: a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation creator, and a drawing program. The translation effort required translating 18,000 English strings, made up of one or more words, many of which have previously had no direct Swahili equivalent. As part of the translation, the team developed a glossary of 1500 technical words in Swahili. The office suite also includes a spellchecker with a lexicon of 70,000 words.

Swahili is not the only African language into which OpenOffice is being translated. According to Ethan Zuckerman, a fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, OpenOffice is being translated into the nine official languages of South Africa by Translate.org.za. The same organization is also supporting translation efforts to bring the software into the Rwandan language Kinyarwanda, and Hausa, a language spoken largely in Nigeria. Swahili is spoken by approximately 55 million people worldwide, predominantly in East African countries, including Tanzania and Kenya.

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