Twitter Isn't Recognizing This Language

Nandika Macharia

Swahili is the most commonly spoken indigenous language in Africa. Despite this, the wait for it to be recognized by Twitter is still ongoing, as is the wait for other African languages to be recognized. It is widely acknowledged that Twitter has come to yield a lot of influence in the social media realm over a short period of time.

A good example is the day of the 2016 US presidential elections, when there were more than 40 million election-related tweets sent, proving that Twitter was the largest source of breaking news worldwide. It is, therefore, of little wonder that Kenyans and other African countries feel they too can harness the power of Twitter even further, if only it recognized Swahili and other African languages on its platform.

Twitter is extremely popular with the young men and women of the African continent, as it has become a platform for activism, business, awareness and political accountability, as they readily and effectively communicate their grievances on matters and issues affecting them.

Kenya and other Swahili-speaking countries, through hashtags such as #TwitterRecognizeSwahili and #SwahiliNotIndonesian, have sparked conversation on why Swahili, or any other African languages, have not yet been recognized by Twitter, given the undeniably huge African demographic. These protests seem to have yielded results, as Twitter no longer mistakes Swahili words for Indonesian or Latvian. However, this is still a far cry from recognizing the language on the social media platform.

On Twitter’s website, Swahili is not included amongst the 34 languages with a translation widget function. Even though Twitter now has the ability to translate and detect certain Swahili words, it is by no means recognition of the language. This detection and translation is made possible by a translation cloud service integrated into applications across the web. It is the same one used by applications such as Skype, Windows, and Bing, and is referred to as Microsoft Translator, which has included Swahili since October 2015.

Like all good things, Twitter has to mature further, as it undergoes a natural evolution process that will hopefully become all-encompassing through expanding their localization capabilities as a company. It is worth noting that even companies like Google, for the longest time, did not offer African languages, such as Swahili and Amharic. Some have localized, and now Google and Gmail have Swahili and Amharic options, benefiting close to 100 million people.

Distribution of Swahili language

That said, Kenyans and the rest of the Swahili-speaking community acknowledge Twitter’s global achievements, in the very least improving the translation aspect of Swahili on the platform. Following Facebook’s example in this regard would not hurt, as the social media giant recognizes several African languages, including Hausa, Afrikaans and Somali.

While on a visit to Kenya and Nigeria, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hinted at the possibility of additional software for more African languages in a bid to facilitate easy access for more Africans to Facebook. Things do look promising for Swahili from that perspective.

We can only hope that Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey is thinking along the same lines. Then Africa can truly keep up with the rest of the world on breaking news and, more importantly, people can get their views on pertinent issues out there, in a language the Swahili audience can understand, follow and use to contribute to the conversation.

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,100 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article