Google in Afaan Oromo

Oromo can now search the web in their own language


A group of more than 40 professional linguists, computer experts and students joined together in 2005 to translate Google’s main search site and other aspects of Google’s popular internet services into Afaan Oromoo.

Three years later, Google Afaan Oromoo is available for Google Interface Search which can help the user to search the Web, images, discussions groups and directories in the language of 40 percent of Ethiopia.

Habtamu Dhugo, a computer programmer who came to the United States a year ago, joined the  under a Google email-discussion group known as Gumii Dagaagina Afaan Oromoo, a virtual club for developing the Oromo language.  

“I was driven by the idea of seeing Afaan Oromoo become one of the global languages of technology and by my background in new media and information and communication technology,” Habtamu told Tujube for the Afan Oromo service.

He said the translations were difficult because team members needed to integrate concepts from technology and languages as well as cultures.  “It was sometimes hard to find equivalent technological terms in Oromo or other Ethiopian languages because of the fact those technological terms are as foreign as the technologies themselves to Ethiopia,” says Habtamu.

He said another challenge was the drop-out rate among the club’s volunteers. Habtamu succeeded in completing the translation of important Google products such as Main Search Site and Main Search Help Site single-handedly.

“Google is the largest U.S.-based search engine whose mission is to organize our universe’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. And to make Afaan Oromoo and other Ethiopian languages part of this global project, to me, is quintessential in creating a new information superhighway and thereby information societies everywhere.”

Habtamu wanted to translate Google products in Afaan Oromoo, because of poverty and restricted investment in technology in Oromiya and Ethiopia.The part of society that uses the Internet and other computers services is mainly the educated and the political elites that can afford to pay for the services.

Habtamu plans to translate more internet communications terms, write a technology dictionary in collaboration with linguists and create more awareness about the importance of making Afaan Oromoo a language of technology and information.

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