It is expected that by June 2010, Google Botswana’s Search drive and its other Software’s will be available for full function in Setswana language. This development came about as an initiative from Google Network to have its Search drives conducted in different African languages.
Google is a worldwide American public corporation whose headquarters are based in California. It operates by earning revenue from advertising related to its Internet search, e-mail, online mapping, office productivity, social networking, and video sharing services as well as selling advertising-free versions of the same technologies.
Last year, a representative of Google from Israel, approached and preached the idea to the man who is now responsible for the assured success of the operation, University Of Botswana lecturer, DR Thapelo Otlogetswe.
Google has also placed offices as additional offices to those in Israel for overlooking the Google operations within Sub-Saharan Africa.
Otlogetswe is leading a team that comprises of two other researchers, namely Pontsho Pusoetsile, from Consult Information Technology Botswana, and Botswana Innovation Hub’s Gao Mosweu.
“The idea is that the search should be done in Setswana language, and for me that was a very attractive offer because I am very much into empowering and developing the Setswana language,” said Otlogetswe.
Otlogetswe, who currently writes a column called ,”The Linguist’s Chair” in this paper’s sister publication, The Telegraph, revealed that he decided to involve the University as well as 12 of its Fourth year English Majors students in the project.
Like any other project, they were faced with challenges such as that the students were English Majors not translation majors and would therefore have trouble with translation of some words into Setswana.
“We engaged the services of some fourth year students, who were English majors but were also Batswana for about a week or so, and the most important thing to note is that Google is going to be able to reference these students. This is something that they will carry for life, it’s a really significant step for their future careers,” said Otlogetswe.
According to the UB lecturer they are faced with a number of challenges concerning the translation of the English language into Setswana, such as the translating of technological terminology into the language. He gave examples of words such as web page, site, domain, username etc.
“We were faced with making decisions on whether to create new words, or to borrow from existing languages; the trick is to make the words sound as if they were original Setswana words, not like words that were borrowed from another language,” said Otlogetswe.
According to Otlogetswe, there is a likelihood that the University would by August 2010 or 2011 launch a Bachelor of Arts degree in Translation and Interpretation studies, another project he is currently involved in.
He revealed that Setswana has been chosen by the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN) as a language for development and promotion because of its cross border tendencies.
Otlogetswe is part of the 8 people that form part of the Setswana commission, which has 4 people from Botswana and 4 from South-Africa.
He said that the aim of ACALAN is to formulate and develop Setswana which fits exactly into what Google is trying to do.
“We are currently busy at work on the project, which is, by the way, carried out on a voluntary basis and will be ready for editing at around April/May. We are hoping that by June when one opens the site www.Google.co.bw, they will be embraced by a home page in which everything is written in Setswana.