20 April 2006
Many South Africans will soon be able to use a computer in their home language for the first time.
Microsoft released this week an isiZulu version of their most popular product, Windows XP, with a Setswana version promised for May and Afrikaans to come in June.
The programme will translate all of Windows’ menus, help files and error messages, almost 400 000 words and phrases in total.
Some of South Africa’s seven other official languages may arrive when Microsoft release their successor to XP, Windows Vista, expected sometime in 2007.
The project has taken almost two years, much longer than the company originally expected, according to Microsoft South Africa MD Gordon Frazer.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” Frazer told Business Day. “It’s something we have been working on for some time, in partnership with a lot of people because we had to deliver linguistically correct versions.”
During the development of the language packs, Microsoft consulted the Pan South African Language Board, universities, local communities and government departments.
“We wanted to get consensus on the terms and terminology to protect the integrity of the languages,” Frazer said. “We didn’t just want to say ‘i-this’ and ‘i-that'”.
For some terms, however, there just wasn’t a suitable translation available, such as i-Internet, for example.
Frazer believes that it is first-time users, who are daunted by computers and do not speak English as their first language, who will derive the most value from the language packs.
“I think we will see quite a big take-up in schools and in the 50 community computer centres we sponsor where English is an issue.”
Various versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating system are used by more than 90% of all computer users, and for them this will be the first time that they will be able to do everything in their home language.
The isiZulu Interface pack is available for download at Microsoft.com. Microsoft say that the programme will also be distrubuted on CD, for those without internet access.