Translator Surajo Teete thinks the internet is the key to uniting Fulfulde speakers Rising Voices

Photo provided by Surajo Teete and used with permission. Surajo is pictured here on the left.

This article is part of a series of interviews with our guest hosts from @DigiAfricanLang rotation of the Twitter campaign at Rising Voices.

As part of our ongoing series highlighting the work of activists promoting African languages ​​in digital spaces, we would like to feature Fulfulde translator Surajo Teete (@SurajoTeete) from Nigeria. For Surajo, it is absolutely imperative that the Fulfulde language, also known as Fula or Fulah, be brought into the digital world. Although Fulfulde is a language spoken by millions of people in different dialects across West Africa, its online presence remains weak. In order to achieve his goal of increasing Fulfulde’s digital presence and ensuring its preservation, Surajo and his team founded an all-Fulfulde media outlet called Sakiraaɓe Media. Learn about Surajo’s motivations for digitizing languages ​​and how, in doing so, we can collectively transcend geographic and political boundaries that so often act as constraints to human connection.

Rising Voices (RV): Tell us about yourself and your language-related work.

Surajo Teete (ST): As a language student who obtained the national certificate in education from FCE, Kano and majored in Fulfulde, English alongside education, I was exposed to the language endangerment experienced by languages, Fulfulde included, due to the nature of its diverse speakers in African countries. .

In this pursuit, I acquired a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from Bayero University, Kano to equip myself with policies, strategies and possible ways to support the language. During my project, I wrote about “Code – Change as a step towards language endangerment: a case study of some selected Fulɓe families in Kano metropolis”, to measure the level of change in language of the Fulfulde speakers in Kano.

In our efforts to support and develop Fulfulde, we have initiated Sakiraaɓe Media, a medium that publishes news in Fulfulde, both in audio and written form. It has done a lot to maintain and develop the vocabulary of the language and maintain the use of the language.

RV: What is the current state of your language, online and offline?

ST: In terms of the number of countries that speak it, Fulfulde is arguably the largest language spoken in Africa. It is a language that is spoken in a continuum of over 24 African countries. Online too, it is one of the few African languages, if not the only one, which has crossed dozens of borders to build up its pool of speakers. It is also an African language that breaks down all colonial constructs by bringing people from different parts of Africa, across dozens of borders, and linking them through their common language – all thanks to the internet.

There are a number of websites developed and operated in Fulah including; pulaagu.org, andaltech.com, binndipulaar.com, boolumbal.orgpulaar.org, fulfulde.org, oolelpulaar.com, tabitalpulaaku.org, www.dingiralfulbe.com, naamnee.comfulbemedia.com, koode.net and crowd of others.

Fulah is broadcast by Rfi, koode Radio International AbujaVoice of Nigeria, Pulaaku FM Yola, Afrika Pulaar Radio and many more.

RV: What are your motivations for seeing your language present in digital spaces?

ST: The motivation is simple: you have to. And I think the reason is visible and watching us. Digital spaces are now an integral part of our lives. Loads of our communication is happening right there. Our politics, our policies, our learning, our businesses, our identities, our fears and even our wars are in these digital spaces. This means that these spaces are essential for the survival of humans and everything they do, including their languages.

Fulfulde, as previously established, is a widely spoken offline language. If it can leverage the power of these digital spaces, not only will it retain its vast speaker base, but it will also – for the first time – have the ability to unify these speakers in their language, regardless of any barriers. No borders). No paperwork and bureaucratic red tape. No citizenship. No nothing. Just the language. And the language.

RV: Describe some of the challenges that prevent your language from being fully used online.

ST: For a language as dispersed as Fulfulde, there are challenges to overcome. One of them is maintaining a common spelling. But we know it’s difficult, simply because of the dispersion. For example, a Fulfulde speaker from French-speaking Africa will have an almost entirely different way of writing Fulfulde from someone from English-speaking Africa. (And there is also the influence of local languages). Thus, communication sometimes becomes difficult between Fulfulde speakers from different social backgrounds over these digital spaces simply because of the writing of the language in borrowed spellings.

RV: In your opinion, what concrete measures can be taken to encourage young people to start learning their language or to continue using their language?

ST: First, using the same digital spaces to teach Fulɓe the standard Fulfulde spelling born out of the UNESCO Bamako Conference of the 60s. This, to me, is the best possible way to reverse the trend. Fulfulde speakers, for example, from Senegal, Guinea, Ghana and Nigeria can be taught in, for example, a webinar on spelling and be encouraged to use it, which was not possible at the pre-internet era.

Two, more written material needs to be written as this is the basis to solidify all of this. Without written material, people will always have to improvise – and we cannot disentangle this from the influence of their immediate society. Many people write English, for example, perfectly, not because they were taught its spelling in class. On the contrary, they write it so clearly because there is a treasure trove of his written material, everywhere. It’s something we need to do for the survival of our languages, both online and offline. A language that is not written romanticizes the inevitability of death.