Facebook in Shona and Ndebele!

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So here I am logging into Facebook to check if there are any updates, guess what I find…?

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Imagine my excitement!
I quickly share with my workmates.And they too are excited.
But what does that mean for us Zimbabweans? Do we have much vocabulary and is it that simple for every user? Since Facebook would like us to contribute will the Zimbabweans on facebook be able to capture all the Shona Ethnic Groups?

Facebook said this:

“People use Facebook to share information and ideas in many different languages. In fact, 50% of our community speaks a language other than English and most people don’t speak each other’s languages, so we’re always thinking about ways we can help remove language as a barrier to connecting on Facebook.”

The number of Facebook Users in Zimbabwe according to Techzim estimates earlier this year, about 800k facebook accounts are active and 6.7m people are on the internet. Of course, there are factors why not everyone who has internet access is not on facebook.

Shona is a collective name of the largest ethnic group in Zimbabwe which consists of the Manyika, Zezuru, Korekore, Karanga and the Ndau among other ethnic groups and represents over 70% of the Zimbabwean population. We hope that Facebook is working on launching the other major language in Zimbabwe: SiNdebele. Heck, we hope they make even the dialect divisions available on the platform.

Here are some of the reasons why this is actually a good thing for Zimbabwe;

1. Taking Down The Language Barrier

Taking into consideration that not everyone is very good with English, communicating in ones’ first language may be very comfortable for other people. In my head I can see a post in Venda, ”Ndimatsheloni avhudi”  and that is a greeting there, How do you do 

Good morning, Leesa K!
Stay dry today in Harare. Rain is in the forecast.
That’s  a good warning facebook gave me today in the morning. But what if I didn’t know how to read that then I will probably get soaked because I don’t have my umbrella. The same applies to all those tabs found on Facebook. They may be meaningful to someone who can read English but nothing but pictures for the rest.

2. Advertising Made Easy

Social sites such as Facebook is where most of the coporates should reach out to people. I am pretty sure if the mentioned 6.7m have active Facebook accounts then it means a wider range has been reached. It will be way easy if the adverts will be in our mother language.

Problem With Shona

However, the Shona Language has not evolved like most of the things we use in this 21st-century era. Someone reminded me that Shona words are quite a mouthful and not every word has a Shona synonym. For example, how do you say settings in Shona?
Which just reminds me of Google’s attempt on Shona. Are you feeling lucky? Une Rombo rakanaka? I don’t know if it’s just me who thinks that our beautiful language was not given justice there!

How Is Facebook Doing This?

According to Facebook, engineers use machine translation to change posts into different languages and language identification technology to determine which language individual users need to see posts in.

When creating a new post, users are given the option to have the post written in additional languages. They can specify each language they want the post written in using drop-down selections.

All in all, I hope that our vernacular languages, which are our heritage will not die or be eventually phased of but will find use in this modern world. Well, those are just my thoughts. What do you guys think?



  1. KnightStalker

    This new feature by Facebook is exciting for starters it give me pride as a Zimbabwean for the recognition. Secondly i believe there is no better way of storytelling than in ones mother tongue, for i feel Facebook is a platform to show each and everyone’s story and now its more convenient

  2. Dave

    It’s not about money. It’s about growth. Take B

  3. Tamuka Rujeko Titungamire

    A Shona Language Institute is needed to translate and evolve the language. (Ndebele as well)