Google goes Swahili

Google yesterday unveiled Swahili versions of Gmail, Google Maps and Google Chrome.

“The internet offers so many opportunities, and we want to make the internet more relevant and useful to East Africans. Being able to use products like Chrome, Gmail and Maps in Swahili means that our users will now have a much better experience of the web in their day-to-day lives. And this is just the beginning,” says Joe Mucheru, Google Lead for sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Dr Leonard Chacha Mwita of the Kiswahili and African Languages Department at Kenyatta University, Swahili accounts for the over 120 million speakers in the East African common market, or nearly 20% of indigenous language speakers in Africa.

“Swahili uniquely conveys much of our shared culture, is the lingua franca used in day-to-day interaction across borders, is one of the languages of the African Union and is becoming an increasingly important part of the internet fabric in Africa,” says Chacha,

“Such locally relevant web tools will no doubt foster integration by enabling East Africans to communicate, learn and work together with greater ease,” Chacha adds.