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Gmail now in Kiswahili & Amharic

Although English, French and Portuguese are the official languages used in most African countries, many Africans are in fact more comfortable and eloquent using their indigenous languages, particularly when communicating with friends or when they want to fully express their views. This could not be more evident than in Ethiopia or Tanzania, where Amharic and Swahili are used in every aspect of society — from studying in school, filling out government forms, to writing an SMS.

Google’s Gmail
interface is like your modern-day postal clerk: it helps you organize and control your mail experience, just as interacting with the postal clerk does for regular mail, only a lot faster. Now think – isn’t it great when you can understand your postal clerk and express yourself more clearly to him/her?  Well, starting this week, Gmail is available in Swahili and Amharic, adapting to over 100 million speakers located in East and Central Africa, and in the Diaspora.

Switching Gmail to Swahili or Amharic is easy. Once logged into Gmail:

  1. Click on the “Settings” link on the top right of the page.
  2. Toggle the display language drop down then select Kiswahili or Amharic from the list.
  3. Hit save, and voila!

In addition to changing the display language, you can now read and write your email in Swahili or Amharic if you’re more comfortable in these languages.  For example, while using the Amharic display, you can turn on transliteration to convert letters typed on a regular Roman keyboard to Ethiopic characters instantly.  And to read all incoming messages in Swahili, simply turn on the Message Translation lab.  All messages that aren’t in Swahili will get automatically translated by Google Translate.

No machine translation tool is perfect, but if you are a Swahili speaker who doesn’t understand a word of French, this feature can be quite handy when you need to get the gist of a message. Whether you are new to email or a veteran, these new language options will be useful and make the internet and email more accessible to a much wider group of people across East Africa.

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  1. […] Gmail is available in Swahili and Amharic, adapting to over 100 million speakers located in East and Central Africa, and in the Diaspora.[Story] […]

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