This post is part of a series of interviews with our guest hosts of the @DigiAfricanLang rotating Twitter campaign at Rising Voices.
Alhassan Alidu is truly putting in the work to bring the Moore language into the digital world. Moore is one of two official regional languages in Burkina Faso, Africa. It is spoken primarily by Mossis such as Alhassan. The Mossi people make up the largest ethnic group in Burkina Faso, with around 6 million Mossi currently living within the country and more living elsewhere in countries such as Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. In 1896, the French colonized Burkina Faso, and remained there until independence in 1960. Due to this, French is technically the official language of the country. Moore is more widely spoken, but, as Alhassan points out, the legacies of colonization act as barriers to the digital implementation of Moore and other regional languages.
As the executive director of the Moore Wikimedia Community, Alhassan is providing Moore with a digital platform that exists in the face of dominating Western media and languages (e.g. French and English), and allows for a larger and more accessible diffusion of the language. He has also created a YouTube page with helpful resources detailing how to use Wikimedia, as well as an Instagram account that provides language tips and highlights the contributions of Moore Wikimedia members. You can follow Alhassan on Twitter at @Hasslaebetch and the Moore Wikimedia Community at @Moore_Wikimedia. With these resources, Alhassan hopes to provide the Moore language with a permanent digital presence that can be used by the Moore community throughout the world and for years to come.
Rising Voices (RV): Please tell us about yourself and your language-related work.
Alhassan Alidu (AA): I am Alhassan Alidu, my username is Hasslaebetch, and my Twitter handle is @Hasslaebetch. I am a Moore (Mossi) by tribe and I speak Moore, Dagbani and English. Burkina Faso is the homeland of my parents but they relocated to Ghana and so I was born in Ghana and as such I am a Ghanaian by nationality. I edit in Dagbani and Moore. Even though I have not studied Moore in my university education, it behooves me to assist my language to come on deck in the digital space. I collaborate with language experts so that our mother tongue can also have a space at the right time in the digital environment. My experience in editing in Dagbani gave me the zeal to forge ahead to reaching a goal possible together with the Moore community and the Moore people at large.
RV: What is the current state of your language both online and offline?
AA: There are many factors hindering the existence of the Moore language in digital spaces. Online, the language is unheard — this is as a result of French and English barriers. Moore is largely spoken in Burkina Faso but Burkina Faso is a Francophone country — they speak more of French than English — and as a result the language is lost in the English digital space. Moore speaking people in surrounding countries like Ghana make better use of the English language than French. Offline, there is a lot of progress in archiving the language in books and magazines. Lots of writers have emerged and they have done a lot of work on the language. Hopefully, these writers will translate that into the digital space for generations yet unborn to fully utilize the language.
RV: What are your motivations for seeing your language present in digital spaces?
AA: My motivation is driven by my passion to put the language in the limelight so that it will be accessible to those who are far from the indigenous speakers and still want to learn or continue to get in touch with their mother language. Future generations must not lose the quality of the language as a result of our negligence to duly archive the language. The digital space gives a very good environment for one to be able to preserve his/her language, culture and national identity. All these elements give relief and motivation to me for seeing my language present in the digital space. But beyond this, one can be sure that future generations would work tirelessly to improve upon the content being published in Wikipedia and all its sister projects.
RV: Describe some of the challenges that prevent your language from being fully utilized online.
AA: Lack of understanding of one’s language can discourage a person from trying to utilize the language. Most people do not see reasons why they need to learn their language because the language is not used in any official communication with the state agencies. Additionally, the French/English mix is somewhat challenging. Some Moore speakers also speak either English or French. As these languages are international languages, they are given much more priority than the Moore language. African countries colonized by the Western world adopted foreign languages as the means of all official communication to the government and all government establishments. The media and privately owned enterprises do not make use of the local language. This resulted in a reduction in interest in speaking the local language to children by parents and as a result, the coming generations are gradually losing their language.
RV: What concrete steps do you think can be taken to encourage younger people to begin learning their language or keep using their language?
AA: In this globalized world, being able to speak your native language is something that we need to value. Speaking the language frequently and studying the language will enable one to master the language and have the zeal to utilize it. Inability to speak a good language doesn’t encourage the speaker to speak. People normally will always speak the language they are fluent at rather than what may be challenging to speak. People must find entertainment in the language they speak. Media houses like TV stations, radio stations must have programs that would entertain people in their dialects. Movies, music, poems and news items could have sessions of local language for people to have the zeal in learning the language. Language courses could also be organized for interested people or it could be added to the curriculum to aid learning the language. More so, online tools could be developed to assist people to practice short phrases, learn new vocabulary and even try pronunciation and subsequent speaking.