I was introduced to GV in May 2009 by the founding editor of GV Swahili, Joe Tungaraza. I used to know him as one of the pioneers of Swahili blogosphere in the year 2004/05. He was among the few Tanzanians in the Diaspora who worked hard to encourage local netizens to blog in Swahili.
These were the days of ‘blogging enlightenment’ in Tanzania. Ndesanjo Macha who was then a weekly columnist in the local newspaper led the movement. His weekly reflections on culture and African politics influenced my thinking as a student. I must admit that his impact motivated me to start my own Swahili blog in 2005.
In May 2009, Joe called me one evening to invite me to join Swahili Lingua. I was impressed to take part in the project because I was already a keen devotee of Swahili language. In those years some people would predict that Swahili was to reach its ‘dead end’ within a century. These inferiority thoughts were grounded on the popular attitude among people that to be ‘well educated’ means to understand and speak English. These were not good news to the language which is the only African official language of the African Union.
So I found Lingua project especially interesting and I considered it as an opportunity to contribute to the growth of Swahili. My first translation was published on May 25, 2009 originally written by Amira Al Hussaini. I still remember the excitement and exhilaration.
Things weren’t smooth from the start. I had no background in languages and journalism. The best culture I understood was my own. It was challenging to understand the cultural diversity inferred in some original quotations written in completely different contexts. It took me time to be able to contextualize. I remember this experience when I was translating a post that was highlighting the debate that soccer fans had about whether to ban Vuvuzelas in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
I am grateful to Joe who was patient and sincerely ready to nurture my translation skills as he saw me grow. Since then, I have translated hundreds of posts from six continents, ranging from culture, politics, human rights, democracy and so forth. It has been an amazing ongoing learning experience.
In the culture where volunteering is rare or doesn’t exist at all, I sometimes encounter folks who fail to understand why I work for GV Swahili. “What motivates you?” my acquaintance often asks. They can’t understand why on earth can someone spend time doing unpaid work. My response has always been that Swahili Lingua provides a right platform for me to generate digital content that can serve approximately 150 million people in East and Central Africa region who speak my first language.
Internet access is growing in Africa. Mobile devices have made it possible for people in the region to have access to internet services. Unfortunately most of information available on line is in foreign languages which as a result create a demand for more content in local languages. So by translating what is happening around the globe into their local language, I help Swahili speakers to ‘listen to what the world says’ in their only language they understand the best.
Through the years of translating, I have been exposed to foreign cultures as reflected on the posts that I worked on. Sometimes I worked on the posts which contradicted my core values. But it has been an excitement to learn how internet users around the globe see the world differently. I as translate, it makes me appreciate the way Global Voices enhances local people in the vicinity of the world to set the news agenda to the global audience regardless of their culture.
Global Voices has become my family. I have met wonderful people with amazing experience. Global Voices has expanded my social capital more than I could ever imagine or think. How I wish more people from Swahili speaking regions would join this amazing project.