Recognised for Multilingual Software in South Africa


South Africa's leading developer of multilingual software,, has been recognised by the Pan South African Language Board, for its ground-breaking work in this field.

The PanSALB award for Multilingualism and Nation Building in the eBusiness Institution category recognises's invention of the country's first multilingual keyboard and open source spell checkers.

The award also recognises the company's work in translating software including and Mozilla Firefox into South African languages.

Their latest project entails helping people across Africa translate their indigenous languages into popular software.

Speaking to BuaNews on Wednesday, Director, Dwayne Bailey, said the award is not about recognition for them, but about promoting the use of vernacular languages. Bailey said the project had proved that South African languages were in no way inferior to others. "If we can't protect them [languages], they will die and if we care about them, we should use our hands and pens to promote them," said Mr Bailey.

PanSALB, which conferred the awards, is a statutory body established to create conditions to develop and promote the equal use and enjoyment of all 11 official South African languages. PanSALB actively promotes an awareness of multilingualism as a national resource.

Criteria for the awards include a landmark language-related work, a campaign to increase public awareness of the linguistic profession, a specific event or programme or a number of endeavours or sustained services over a certain period.

Among's other is a successful "translation marathon" event held in May 2007, aimed at making indigenous African languages visible on the Rhodes campus.

During the event, about 60 isiXhos speakers and IT specialists huddled around computer screens and dictionaries in an attempt to translate the 10 000 words that make up the Rhodes email system.

isiXhosa speakers translated the interface for Rhodes University's. The translated software was the first application of its kind that allowed the institute's students and staff to access email in their mother tongue.

The event was organised by, the Telkom Centre of Excellence in Distributed Multimedia and the South African-Norway Tertiary Education Development project amongst others.

In 2004, successfully translated into Zulu, Northern Sotho and Afrikaans and by 2005 they had translated it into all 11 official languages.

Microsoft is currently working on a software tool to help computer programs to be translated into six African languages, Zulu, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, Setswana, Swahili and Sepedi. also won the African ICT Achiever award in 2006, for their efforts towards bridging the digital divide in Africa.