Article originally published on LinkedIn, 6 Oct. 2014.
Last month, I posted here on “Ebola messaging in West African languages.” Since then, I’ve taken some time to look at more specifics – information in several languages, and about who is doing what. As a part-time effort this has been somewhat scattershot, relying on established contacts and chance discoveries, but taken together, these examples seem to indicate that there are significant initiatives to compose and translate information on ebola in languages of West Africa. There are also some efforts involving languages of other parts of the continent, even far from where ebola has actually occurred.
A significant amount of this has been in video (such as YouTube) or audio-only formats, and those are of course essential in public education about ebola in the region. However, I have focused for the moment mainly on material in written/text form. I’ve framed the rationale for attention to the written form of African languages – even where most people are not literate in them – in terms of dissemination, demonstration, reading, review, revision, and re-use (2Ds & 4Rs). The ultimate object, I would suggest to foreign-funded ebola education programs, should be to build on public education efforts in these languages, rather than treating them as temporary and disposable products. And to this end, collecting text (including transcriptions of audio & video productions) would be of central importance.
Information in several languages includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Some ebola message translations from Freetown (Krio, Mende, Susu, Kono, and Limba languages, mainly spoken in Sierra Leone)
- “Pamɛbhamɛ” article on ebola (eastern Dan language, mainly spoken in Côte d’Ivoire)
- WHO FAQ on ebola, in N’Ko (N’Ko is an alphabet used to write Manding languages in several countries of the region; it is also considered a “koiné” unification of Manding)
- Ebola factsheet in Bambara (Bambara is a Manding language spoken mainly in Mali as a 1st or 2nd language by 60-80% of the population; this is in the “official” Latin-based orthography of the language in that country)
A page with links to information of various kinds in Yoruba:
Brief discussion of the murder of 8 ebola workers in Guinée forestière, raising a question about the possible role of languages and communication:
I hope to highlight more information initiatives on ebola in West African languages, and would appreciate pointers to examples and initiatives.