As a result of the development of some of our projects related to Papiamento, we have begun to collaborate and converse regularly with Marta Dijkhoff, former Minister of Education of the Netherlands Antilles and a big promoter of the development of Papiamento. In our conversations, one of the recurrent topics is the limitation imposed by the number of speakers of a language when it comes time to provide software tools to its speakers, and, concretely, for the use of the language on the Internet. The answer to this limitation has always been: free software and blogs.
This limitation is represented by the refusal of big software proprietary businesses to launch their tools in languages with few speakers, and by the scant online development of these languages. The result is, on the one hand, the imposition of a second language by the software suppliers, and the capture of the public agenda on the part of the media.
The alternative to this situation today is nothing new, and in practice, already has a large number of projects, among them the translation of Claroline to Guaraní by the Library of the Indies. However, the use of free software and the development of a powerful blogosphere remains a pending task among the speakers of many creole languages.
Free software and the blogosphere return sovereignty over languages to their speakers. In the concrete field of creole languages, the latest developments in Papiamento represent an advance in use of free software and the first initiatives towards the development of a blogosphere.
The case of Papiamento
A recent presentation by Ace Suares, member and promoter of the “Open Curaçao” foundation, lets us take a look at the developments over the last ten years in the field of free software in Curaçao. A search for the projects in this presentation shows us how the number of projects has grown over the years. From training in tools of free software to the development of a spellchecker for Firefox and Thunderbird to the translation of Sugar, the graphical interface of the OLPC project, to Papiamento.
Among the Papiamento speakers, use of free software as an alternative to proprietary applications seems to be gaining a certain critical mass. There are more and more projects – LibreOffice, Ubuntu, etc. – that are gaining teams of translation to Papiamiento.
Even though we find many references in Papiamento to the phenomenon of blogs, our first mapping, three years ago, of the blogosphere in Papiamento, confirmed their weakness and the low penetration of blogs among its speakers. Based on our mapping, we launched the first portal of blogs in Papiamento, and we started to give support to some of their members.
Today, the blogosphere in Papiamento still has a long way to go to gain greater relevance and have much impact on the public agenda, as well as to contribute value to the online development of Papiamento. However, the blog portal we launched two years ago has been gaining new members and initiatives.
The case of the Papiamento, with the development of new software tools and initiatives in the world of blogs, shines a light on the major opportunity that free software and the blogosphere represent for creole languages.