To many, the prospect of a month-long festival of football is a treat in store and it is particularly exciting to see World Cup 2010 taking place in Africa for the first time in the Rainbow Nation – South Africa – starting today. 32 nations and billions of viewers across the globe will enjoy the sporting spectacular in the common language of football.  ‘Bafana bafana’ (our boys in isiXhosa I believe) is the local language nickname for the South Africa team and ‘ibhola lethu’ (our football team in isiZulu) is an excellent football anthem  - and that is using just 2 of the 11 official languages in South Africa.

In case you are wondering, local language is the topic of this blog posting, not 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 football team formations (I shall leave the latter to the football experts).  Microsoft recognises that, in the global village created by the growth of telecommunications and IT, there is a wealth of languages that are in danger if they are not easily available in the online tools and applications that are increasingly in use worldwide.

The Microsoft Local Language Program aims to provide language packs as free downloads for Windows and/or Office in many of the world’s lesser known languages to help keep these languages flourishing in local communities by making them available online. As Dr. David Harrison, Director of Research at The Living Tongues Institute puts it eloquently in a short video you can view here:

…actually language endangerment begins with children. The Microsoft Local Language Program can empower indigenous communities from the very moment when children in those communities first encounter a technology. It’s a very powerful thing for children to see their native language on a computer, a cellphone or other high tech medium.  It validates the language; it encourages them not to abandon it.  It shows them that their language is not backward and obsolete; that it has use in the modern world; it has value.

Whether you are seeking a Xhosa, Zulu or an Irish Gaelic or Welsh language pack among the many available from Microsoft you can find more information and guidance on how to download and install the Windows and/or Office language packs for your needs here.

As for the coming month of world cup football I leave the final word to Bill Shankly,  “Football is not a matter of life and death... it's much more important than that.”

Posted by Ian