SA releases multilingual computer game
Researchers at the Meraka Institute have released a spelling game in all 11 official South African languages. The game, OpenSpell, can also be localised for additional languages. Open Spell will soon be available on rural kiosks throughout South Africa thanks to the Digital Doorway project.
OpenSpell was the inspiration of visiting researcher and linguist, Dr Madelaine Plauché, who has been working in the human language technologies (HLT) research group at the Meraka Institute based at the research parastatal CSIR.
“Although computers are made available in rural areas and small community centres worldwide, it has become apparent that almost no local language software exists,” she says.
Plauché was responsible for the design and content list, and used the expertise of her colleagues in the HLT group for programming and multimedia.
Plauché used staff from around the CSIR for the voice recordings for the game.
V1.00 of OpenSpell has two parts: a simple interactive computer-based activity that can be set at three levels (easy, medium and hard) and an editor that allows a tutor to edit the keyboard and record sounds. “Anyone can use the software to customise it to a language or dialect,” says Plauché.
The OpenSpell software has been released under the General Public License (GPL).
Plauché says she is delighted to see this project come to fruition in South Africa. “I see it as a valuable tool in working towards an equitable spread of software support for non-dominant languages.”