Our global languages programme is a major, community-led initiative aiming to transform the experience of millions of people worldwide by making their language available in digital form.
Since the programme’s launch in 2015, Oxford Languages has been working with local speakers of languages with limited digital presences to build quality lexical data and resources for speakers, learners, and developers worldwide.
With our Language Managers and Language Champions, we run reading programmes and appeals, workshops and classroom sessions, talking directly to a wide range of communities to record and reflect their language accurately and meaningfully.
By working with local speakers to document their dialects and language varieties, we are able to create a vast and growing repository of linked language data that is accessible and reusable to power websites, apps, and other tools and services, ensuring that these language communities benefit from digital access and representation.
We are now on the road to a future where quality lexical data for languages spoken by millions of people worldwide is available online and engaged in the development of new technologies to enhance communication on a global scale.
Tatar-Setswana workshop on leadership through language
In July 2019, our Tatar Language Manager Dr Golshat Safiullina invited our Setswana Language Manager Warona Makafu to a workshop on leadership through language for the Leaders’ Biler Forum, part of the Selet Foundation Youth Camps for young people from the Republic of Tatarstan.
Warona shared her inspirational story of how she realized the value of preserving her native language through her work as our Setswana Language Manager, working with the community to record and recognize its cultural identity and ignite conversations with Setswana speakers from all generations to create a shared Setswana language legacy and accessible resources.
Her story prompted questions and discussion from the participants, helping the young people of Tatarstan to understand how embracing their own language and culture, Tartar, could empower them too.
Warona said: ‘I’m so glad that our dictionary allows us to preserve our language in its entirety, all dialects included. How they were spoken and how we speak them now. Anyone coming after our generation can trace themselves to where their language came from and where it is at the time of their life.
‘Capturing a language is the most important thing any group of people can do and the one facilitating the process is always privileged.’
Documenting dialects with the Northern Sotho open-house dictionary
Matlakala Kganyago, our Northern Sotho Language Manager, invented the concept of the open-house dictionary. She first opened her home to Northern Sotho speakers in 2018 and has since run many events inviting the community in to discuss and share their language knowledge.
Passionate about preserving Northern Sotho lexical resources as a legacy for future generations, Matlakala works with her local community in Limpopo, South Africa, to record and translate Northern Sotho content, with a particular focus on documenting its many dialects and variants.
Kgabi, a mine employee who attended Matlakala’s first open-house event, shared his contribution: ‘There are some things we take for granted in life and if we are not careful, they will just fade away. I say so because there is this stone that we mine, the quartz. Most of us don’t know its actual name in our language and it is called “legakabje”. This type of knowledge can fade away with time if we do not record it somewhere. I thank you for the opportunity you gave me of being part of this event.’
Crowd-sourcing Urdu language content with Islamabad College for Boys
At Islamabad College for Boys in Pakistan, our Urdu Language Manager Zafar Syed held an interactive workshop with the college’s third and fourth year students to introduce them to our global languages initiative.
Zafar shared Oxford Languages’ mission to work in collaboration with local speakers, like the college’s students, to record their language for the development of digital resources in Urdu.
The students took part in a content crowd-sourcing session, suggesting new additions to the dictionary and supplying their own examples sentences. They learnt how to submit new words to the Oxford Urdu Dictionary website, marked as a ‘user contribution’, and how such activities are important for documenting Urdu and improving its representation and access online.
The college’s principal Dr Rafiq Sandeelvi took great interest in the project, encouraging his students and expressing his hope for the initiative’s ongoing development of Urdu digital resources.
Creating sexual health resources in Kenyan Sign Language
Sex eLimu is an innovative app providing sexual health information in Kenyan Sign Language. The app enables users to look up sexual health terms and topics, with definitions and explanations given in sign language through video content.
It was developed by Hudson Asiema, the co-founder and chief executive of educational start-up Deaf eLimu, who noticed a lack of sexual health resources for young people in Kenya who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Hudson accessed the Oxford Dictionaries API to source and deliver definitions of terms for the app’s written and video content, using our language data to power its lookup functionality.
The Sex eLimu app equips Kenyan Sign Language signers with access to important information in their language, serving a community that was not catered for by existing language resources.