News of Rwanda (Kigali)

22 February 2013

Rwanda: Following Swahili, Kinyarwanda Is Now in Kamusi Gold

The International Mother Tongue Day that was celebrated on 21st February 2013 as it has been each year is a big day for languages worldwide and the yesterday event was chosen by Kamusi Project to launch its Kamusi GOLD, putting Kinyarwanda among international and influential languages.

The Global Online Living Dictionary is a project that promises to be the communications tool of the future for a great many mother tongues.

Kamusi began as a bilingual dictionary between Swahili and English created by Dr Martin Benjamin. It started at Yale University in December 1994. The project spun off from Yale in 2007, and became two independent NGOs. Kamusi Project USA is the American organization, and Kamusi Project International is based in Geneva and handles all international operations.

After seeing how success the project was, two Rwandan professors approached the Kamusi Project initiator to expand the idea to Kinyarwanda, so Kinyarwanda was the trigger for everything that is happening tomorrow. Those Rwandan Professors who approached you on Kamusi development. Professor Geoffrey Rugege, who was then at Grambling State University and now works in Kigali for the Ministry of Higher Education, and the late Ibulaimu Kakoma, who was then at University of Illinois.

Currently, Rwanda contributors are Mr Habumuremyi Emmanuel, who is working on a bilingual Kinyarwanda-English and English-Kinyarwanda Dictionary project since 1998. The publication of this dictionary is expected in the end of December 2013. Habumuremyi is also an editor for a current Kinyarwanda Dictionary online created by Dr Rowan Syamur found at kinyarwanda.net. Dr Saymour and others members of the team involved in the last-mentioned dictionary are contributors of Kamusi GOLD. Many other contributors will be joining the system soon, too.

The technology developed for Kamusi GOLD is going to be the basis for extremely advanced language tools for Kinyarwanda, including automatic machine translation that will be orders of magnitude better than currently possible between any two languages.

As a reference resource for Kinyarwanda, Kamusi GOLD will be very useful - comprehensive and well documented as a monolingual dictionary. Even though it is not the first monolingual dictionary for Kinyarwanda, but the authors hope to make it the best - clear, user-friendly, and using a lot of electronic methods to make it possible to access information about Kinyarwanda in ways that have never been possible before.

As a link between Kinyarwanda and the rest of the world, Kamusi GOLD will be absolutely without equal. It will link Kinyarwanda to every other language in the system. All of the words that have been defined for Kinyarwanda are linked to the same ideas for not only English and Swahili, but also Luganda, Setswana, Ekegusii, Pulaar, Songhay (all African languages), Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese. In the next few days authors expect these to be joined by Romanian, French, German, East Franconian, and Urdu, and in Africa by Kihehe and Shiyeyi. So that's 17 bilingual dictionaries for Kinyarwanda in all at once. And more languages are expected to be coming on very soon. Every time someone else adds a new language, they get full access to Kinyarwanda, and Rwandans get full access to them.

This is available totally for free to anyone in Rwanda and all over the world with a web-enabled phone, also completely free and easy to use for anyone with an internet connection, including within classrooms. Authors' plan after the first phase is to develop smart-phone and tablet apps in the future.

The dictionary is open for people to contribute new entries and fix or improve existing ones, and the changes will be shared quickly with the world. If they realize that a term is missing, they can add it. If they want to make an entry richer, for example by adding a usage example from the day's newspaper, they are invited to do so. In that way, anyone in Rwanda can help make the resource nicer and nicer for everyone.

All of the programming for the project has taken place in Africa (Ghana, Uganda, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa). Kamusi Project is continuing to focus on adding as many African languages as possible. This is an initiative that is emerging from Africa and being shared with the rest of the world (where it is being received very enthusiastically).

The choice to launch of KAMUSI GOLD on the International Mother Tongue Day was a way of making a big incentive for Kamusi GOLD contributors, who are all working as volunteers to get the first 100 words completed.

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