Linguo is a new innovation in the quest to promote the learning of indigenous African languages.
This innovation comes at a time when the place of African languages has suffered negative consequences due to increasing globalization and technological advancement. These have caused Africans to gradually lose their cultural heritage. Africans now rely on the influence of western culture, as the English language increasingly takes precedence.
Consequently, a group of African language experts and scholars are working hard to come up with technological tools aimed at advancing the study of indigenous African languages to prevent them from completely going into extinction.
One of such groups of individuals is a team from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria, that has been working to develop a platform that facilitates the learning of indigenous Nigerian and African languages. Their aim is to prevent these African languages from eroding, as is currently the case, especially in Nigeria.
Who are they?
This team of experts has built an excellent web platform that can read and speak Nigerian and other African languages. The team is a mixture of software engineers, data scientists, marketers and analysts, notably; Kolawole Felix Oyerinde, Olanrewaju Doyin, Adebayo Abolaji and Olowonirejuaro Oreoluwa. Apart from Doyin who happens to be a final year student, the rest are all 2016 alumni of the university, thus giving them the status of experts.
Research has shown that Africa is at the edge of losing its native languages, but this unique team has drawn Africa one step closer to the preservation of its language heritage, by creating the LINGUO platform.
What is Linguo?
Linguo, is a web-based speech system that can read and speak Nigerian and African languages. It has the ability to read and speak 15 African languages, including the Yoruba and Igbo tongues. Also, it promises the conversion of Text-to-Speech for over 15 African languages. Nevertheless, Linguo is still to function optimally, as it is still largely in its beta phase.
How does it work?
Unlike other platforms, regardless of gender preference, accents are not representative of the selected languages and the voices are all the same. According to Kolawole Felix, leader of the founding team, voice recording might not be totally necessary to an extent.
“…especially for the Yoruba and Igbo languages as they both use a concatenative synthesis method. Linguo has language syllabicator that can split input into correct syllables. For example, Chukwuma will become Chu-kwu-ma. The only thing that may need recording are valid syllables like ‘ba’ and ‘zu’. Syllables from Niger-Congo languages may need to be recorded too,” Felix noted.
In order to make the platform more inclusive and effective for Africans, the developers of Linguo are considering partnership with the languages departments of Nigeria and African Universities. This partnership will enable them to improve in the aspects of accents, intonations and in identifying suitable voices for male and female voices. They also have the intention to create three products; an API for developers, plugin for websites, web and mobile applications to facilitate the use of Linguo across different gadgets.
Linguo and Je Parle le Bassa 2.0 platform
There is a direct connection between Lingou and Je Parle Le Bassa 2.0. Je Parle Bassa 2.0 is a platform teaches its users how to learn and speak the Bassa language with ease.
Bassa is an indigenous language of the Bassa ethnic group in the Coastal regions of Cameroon. They are the main indigenous natives of Douala, which is the economic capital of the country. Bassa, as a Cameroonian language is very popular in the composition of music. In order words, it is largely Cameroon’s musical language, as it stems from colonial days.
Je Parle le Bassa 2.0, is an e-learning language Platform created by a Cameroonian of Bassa origin known as Stephie-Rose Nyot Nyot. The platform makes it easy for the learning of the Bassa language via an interactive and a participatory approach. By so doing, the platform seeks to promote the Bassa language and of course, helps in preserving the Bassa culture.
Linguo and Je Parle le Bassa 2.0 are interesting and commendable innovations from young Africans. Such innovations could radically transform and facilitate the learning and sustainability of indigenous African languages. This is particularly true for Africans, born out of their communities who have interest in getting a grasp of their local languages. The digitalization of the study of African languages through the development of platforms like Linguo and Je Parle le Bassa can actually make this possible.