Examining the Demand for African Language Translation Services

At LinguaLinx, we cover over 200 different languages… so far! Recently, we have noticed a trend – the growing demand for African language translation. This means sourcing linguists who are native speakers of African languages. We aim to forge valuable partnerships to help break down communication barriers with the world’s second-largest and second most populous continent. Africa is a very linguistically diverse continent, which makes translating content for the African market challenging. There are other challenges, too.

To gain more of an insight into the trends related to African language translation, we decided to reach out to Rosalind, one of our partners in South Africa, for her expertise.

What do you think are some of the main reasons for an increased demand for African language translation?

Up until this year, the African market has been neglected. Up until the beginning of 2017, we mainly received medical translations related to patient trials. Now, everyone is noticing the potential of a growing population, especially in Nigeria. However, most people are still not that well paid and live on or near the poverty line. The middle classes are growing in many countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal and other West African countries, so the potential is there.

Which languages are most frequently requested/are in high demand?

Mostly Swahili, Somali, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Sesotho, Malagasy, Amharic, Tigrinya, Hausa, and Yoruba. Twi, Ewe, Mandinka, Wolof, Fulani, Sepedi, Setswama, Luganda, Kinyarwanda, Chichewe and growing in demand.

What types of industries or content do you notice trends in?

Always healthcare, as there are many medical trials throughout the continent. Technology is growing with mobile phones. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Uber are all taking more interest in Africa. Microsoft has been there a long time. We are also receiving educational materials, contracts, and some engineering tools.

From a client’s perspective, Africa is a very linguistically diverse continent. This poses challenges for them. Sure, colonial languages such as English, French, and Portuguese are used, but can you comment on why it is important to translate information into local languages

Translating into local languages is important when you are marketing in Africa; online in particular or if you want people to use your Apps. Even if they have French, Portuguese or English most still prefer to search online in their own language. Also manuals for mobile phones and other devices are appreciated in the local languages.

What challenges do linguists in Africa face when it comes to language translation efforts? 

Poor infrastructure due to a lack of investment in power generation. Most countries go without electricity for many hours every day. The Internet is usually very expensive and low quality, it can take hours to download even a 3 MB file. Working in CAT tools is not very viable. Too many of the languages do not receive enough work to make it viable to purchase a license. Additionally, we are receiving more educational and agricultural materials which require extensive research online. There is also a lack of reference sources available, even in Kenya and South Africa.


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