Introducing Global Voices in Malagasy

A song from the legendary Malagasy group Mahaleo was posted on

“Aoka aho,
Mba ho tompon-tsafidy,
Mba tsy havela hihidy,
Ty vavako miteny” rahafahafahana, Mahaleo. (Mg)

“Let me have my freedom of choice,
Do not let the words from my mouth be silenced”
Freedom by Mahaleo.

As illustrated in this verse, the Malagasy language always had a strong tradition of oral expression. Kabary (lengthy speeches) are often given before any important familial or social events. However, as the economic pressure to employ more prominent languages at the global level (English and French) increases, it is important that the Malagasy language remains at the core of Madagascar's identity. The threat that the younger generations lose interest in speaking Malagasy properly is a frequent topic of discussion among sociologists. Malagasy writer Michèle Rakotoson notes:

Je me demande s’il n’y a pas rupture entre nous et cette fameuse « deuxième génération ». Ils sont plus dans Internet, les soirées festives et dansantes ou les sports. Par rapport à la langue malgache « tenindrazana », celle-ci est littéralement « langue des aïeux » et n’est même pas celle des parents ni des enfants. (Fr)

I wonder whether there migh be a rupture between us and the so called “second generation”. They are more into internet, parties and sports. With respect to the Malagasy language “tenindrazana”, this is literally the “language of the ancestors”, not even the parents nor the children's language.

The Malagasy language is spoken by 17 million people. As such, Malagasy is only the 55th most spoken languages in the world but it is still one of the 69 macrolanguages. The reason for protecting and promoting less-spoken languages is not as much because of the number of native speakers as it is in the history they carry with them. The Malagasy language is one of the main signs of unity for the sometimes racially divided Malagasy nation. As much as any other aspects of the Malagasy culture, it symbolizes the diverse origins of the Malagasy population. Indeed, the Malagasy language belongs to the Malayso-Polynesian family but it was enriched by influences from Bantu, Swahili, Arabic, French and English.
The Malagasy language also played an important role in Malagasy history when Madagascar sought true independence from France. One of the first rulings from the government was to impose Malagasy as the language of choice in the educational system.
GV Malagasy
Therefore, it is in the hope of both reaching towards previously “unheard” voices and promoting exchange between cultures that may have had little interaction that the Global Voices amin’ny teny Malagasy project was created. As the description of the Lingua Global Voices Translation Project states:

“ It will open lines of communication with non-English speaking bloggers and readers of GV. [..] Mostly, Lingua translators are helping bridge worlds and amplify voices”.

We believe it is also very much in the spirit of the Global Voices outreach program Rising Voices, which

“aims to help bring new voices from new communities and speaking new languages to the conversational web”.

Indeed,reading Global Voices in Malagasy may encourage Malagasy speakers to share their own stories.
The Global Voices amin’ny teny Malagasy project was born out of discussions between GV author Mialy and GV Translation Manager Alice Baker and its importance was not lost on Malagasy bloggers who promptly volunteer to contribute: Jentilisa, Hery, Harinjaka, Joan and others who may join soon. We are also reaching out to national newspapers in Madagascar to augment exposure for the project.


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