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Hausa charsets and keyboards

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BisharatNetPerson was signed in when posted
09:29 AM ET (US)
I've posted a more extensive discussion based on /m149 on the Beyond Niamey blog as "Hausa on the international radio websites."
BisharatNetPerson was signed in when posted
12:29 PM ET (US)
Quick return to the topic of how the international shortwave radio websites handle Hausa text. At issue is whether they use the full Latin-based Boko orthography including the "hooked" characters, ɓ, ɗ, ƙ, and either ƴ (Niger) or 'y (Nigeria):

  • Deutsche Welle (or RDW) Appears to be the best with Hausa text (seems to use the correct orthography with extended characters where appropriate most or all the time). Uses lang=ha (though not clear why only in the battery of commands for Internet Explorer). Uses charset=utf-8. A search on "ɗaya" ("one") correctly returned results with "ɗaya"
  • Voice of America Appears to be inconsistent with orthography. Uses lang=ha and charset=utf-8. A search on "ɗaya" ("one") correctly returned results with "ɗaya"
  • RFI Appears to be inconsistent with orthography. See . Uses lang=ha and charset=utf-8. A search on "ɗaya" ("one") returned results with "ɗaya" along with "Haya" for some reason
  • BBC Appears not to use the extended characters at all (though it does use 'y which is the Nigerian equivalent of what in Niger and other countries is ƴ ). Uses lang=ha and charset=utf-8. A search on "ɗaya" ("one") returned results that ignored the letter "ɗ" as if I searched "aya"
  • CRI Appears not to use the extended characters at all. No lang= parameter at all. Uses charset=utf-8, except for a use of charset=iso-8859-1 in search, which returns confused results on searches with extended Latin.

Since this is the result of a quick review, with no extensive or statistical pretensions, I can only offer a subjective impression including the above, and the tentative conclusion that RFI at least has improved in its use of the Boko orthography since my previous look at this issue two years ago - see /m139 . It may be that RDW and VOA have also improved but I can't measure that. It does not seem that either BBC or RCI have improved at all in this regard.

I still think that promulgation of ASCIIfied Hausa (not using the extended characters of the Hausa Boko orthography) will negatively affect the quality of copora drawing on these resources.

The first post on the issue of how these websites handled Hausa text on this message board was in 2007 - see /m107. At that time, all five of the websites used ASCIIfied Hausa, probably because of the legacy effect and uncertainty about how diverse and older computers/software of users would handle the extended characters. Of possible interest is mention of this issue in 2006 on the H-Hausalist.
BisharatNetPerson was signed in when posted
02:40 PM ET (US) has an online translation utility that can translate between Hausa and several other languages (although Hausa is not listed among the languages available for translation on their homepage). For English <-> Hausa, see:

I cannot review the quality of translations beyond some individual words, but did notice that the Hausa output uses digraphs with apostrophes instead of the hooked letters. The word "ɗaya" is shown as "d'aya" for example. Going the other way, one can apparently input either Boko or ASCIIfied Hausa or ASCII with apostrophes and get the same result ("ɗaya", "d'aya" and "daya" are translated as "one"). Not sure what happens inputting ASCIIfied only for words with with different meanings spelled with the hooked letter on the one hand and the plain Latin letter on the other.

Quick looks at pairs with other languages: French looked okay; Chinese simplified did not work, but traditional did, with one small error: Arabic did but dropped one word.

ImTranslator is evidently set up to use diverse MT (machine translation) programs, but only Babylon works for Hausa. Made a quick check on Babylon's online translation page, but did not find Hausa among the options.

Other African languages on ImTranslator include Afrikaans, Arabic, and Swahili. I expect however that in the next few years we'll see more MT programs for more major African languages offered by this and other organizations.
Edited 09-09-2015 02:45 PM
BisharatNetPerson was signed in when posted
12:20 PM ET (US)
Noted with interest a news item in the Vanguard entitled "AUN students develop apps for teaching Hausa, Fulfulde languages" (1 Sept. 2015). The article quotes Dr Margee Ensign, Vice-Chancellor, American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, as saying:

"We have a programme called Student Empowerment through Language, Literacy and Arithmetic (STELLA) where all our students are teaching vulnerable people how to read.

"Our Computer Science students have written apps for teaching Hausa and Fulfulde because people want to learn in their mother tongues."

I've requested more information on this particular project. It seems to me that Africa, with its many languages, is well placed to take a leading role in multilingual uses of computers and the internet for education, development, and research. Linking computer science and linguistic specializations at universities such as AUN would be a key part of making that happen.
Edited 09-09-2015 12:27 PM
BisharatNetPerson was signed in when posted
07:03 AM ET (US)
This message board was the first forum I set up for discussion of African languages on computers and the internet. The particular set of issues that were the focus of this board, and indeed a major preoccupation a decade and a half ago, had to do with how to display, input, and share text in extended Latin orthographies used to write many African languages such as Hausa. This board was set up as a way to seek responses to a question (see /m2) about a computer keyboard for typing Hausa.

Fourteen years later, some things have changed, but others maybe not as much as we had hoped. On the one hand, Unicode enables sharing of all kinds of writing systems, including the extended characters / modified alphabet letters used to write Hausa in its Boko orthography. So for all practical purposes, there is no technical reason blocking use of extended Latin characters like Ɓ, ɓ, Ɗ, ɗ, Ƙ, ƙ, Ƴ, and ƴ on today's systems and web content. Nor are there technical reasons preventing use of the Ajami script. (Whether or not people take advantage of these capabilities is another question.)

On the other hand, despite some initiatives to develop virtual keyboards and even a physical one (Konyin), there is still no standard way of inputting those characters. So computer and mobile users can still ask the same question today as the one that started this message board.

And then there are areas relatively less discussed, like development of human language technologies for Hausa.

The question now is: What role if any can this Hausa charsets and keyboards forum serve in helping people use Hausa on computers and the internet? Related questions include: Whether it makes sense today to discuss such use of Hausa in English rather than Hausa? Would a service offering more graphic and interactive functions serve the purpose better? (I should note here my appreciation for the QuickTopic service - it is easy to set up and has been useful.)

One possible answer, at least in the interim, is to post news items and observations about Hausa and information and communication technology.

Any feedback and ideas are welcome, as always.

Sannu da aiki,

Don Osborn
BisharatNetPerson was signed in when posted
02:44 PM ET (US)
Hausa charsets and keyboards was set up exactly 14 years ago. Many topics have been touched on and a number of resources discussed. Most of the activity was in the first few years. I'll post separately on reasons for maintaining this message board.

The advantage of this board format is the ease in accessing and posting, with the option but not necessity to subscribe. The disadvantage is that there is no search mechanism to find specific topics of interest. To assist, I put together an index in /m37, revised in /m56, which I have updated below. Another search option is to select to display all messages and then do a screen search for keywords.

Don Osborn

Some of the topics covered so far on
Hausa charsets & keyboards

This message board - reason for and goals of establishing & maintaining; name /m1 /m2 /m12 /m47 /m99 /m137

Chat /m55 /m59
Conferences /m91
Diacritics (accents etc.) /m23 /m24 /m26 /m27
Dictionaries on-line /m21
Dictionaries, user/custom /m94
E-mail & e-mail lists /m16 /m54 /m55 /m57 /m58
Fonts /m10 /m13 /m15 /m25 /m26 /m33 /m34 /m35 /m73
Fonts – info on setting up /m6
Fonts driven from website /m9 /m10
Hausa Ajami script /m3 /m4 /m17 /m46 /m66
Hausa language resources /m3 /m11 /m21 /m48 /m75 /m76 /m87 /m97 /m98 /m105 /m106 /m144
Hausa Latin script extended/special characters /m40 /m41 /m42 /m45 /m48 /m70 /m78 /m144
Hausa Latin script extended/special characters (apostrophe as letter) /m40 /m41 /m42 /m45 /m48 /m53
Hausa Latin script extended/special characters (display of) /m9 /m10 /m13 /m19 /m21 /m23 /m24 /m43
Hausa Latin script extended/special characters (ts ligation) /m69 /m70
Hausa Latin script origins /m3
Keyboards – "Hausa 1" & "Hausa 2" /m25 /m30 /m36
Keyboards - key functions (incl. decimal input) /m29 /m30 /m32 /m36 /m74
Keyboards – Konyin /m61 /m71 /m89
Keyboards - layouts, Keyman /m25 /m27 /m30 /m36
Keyboards - layouts, Mac & iOS /m62 /m64 /m141 /m142 /m143
Keyboards - layouts, MSKLC /m88
Keyboards - layouts, NITDA /m93
Keyboards - layouts, OLPC /m115
Keyboards - standardization /m29 /m30 /m32
Keyboards – virtual, graphics tablet /m67 /m68
Keyboards – virtual, popup (on-screen) /m7 /m23 /m43
Keyboards – virtual, soft (touch screen) /m22 /m140 /m141 /m142 /m143
Keyboards (other) /m72 /m73 /m125 /m136
Language policy /m29
Letter database, mapping tables /m26 /m31 /m33 /m36 /m40
Linux /m3 /m6 /m8
Literacy in Hausa (and web content) /m60
Locales for Hausa /m133
Macintosh computers /m3 /m4 /m62 /m64
Mobile devices w/ support for Hausa /m114
Other languages - Arabic /m6 /m142 /m144
Other languages - Bambara /m2 /m4 /m15 /m29
Other languages - Dinka /m27 /m29
Other languages - Fulfulde/Pular /m2 /m4 /m19 /m21 /m33
Other languages - Gikuyu /m108
Other languages - Igbo /m94 /m126 /m144
Other languages - Kanuri /m33
Other languages - South African /m18 /m19 /m20 /m29
Other languages - Tamashek /m33
Other languages – Yoruba /m22 /m26 /m94 /m126 /m144
Other languages - Zarma /m4 /m29 /m33
Other languages (group including: Amharic, Kinyarwanda, Setswana, Swahili, Tigrinya, Wolof, Xhosa, and Zulu) /m144
Search engines & Hausa /m43 /m49 /m50 /m51 /m52 /m53 /m54 /m55
Software, for production in Hausa (see also Keyboards) /m86
Software, localization in Hausa /m84 /m88 /m96 /m111 /m118 /m126
Software, localization in Hausa (Google) /m111 /m127
Software, localization in Hausa (Mediawiki) /m132
Software, localization in Hausa (Microsoft) /m126 /m128
Spelling/orthography corrector /m108 /m109 /m110
Translation utilities & MT /m19 /m21 /m120
Unicode (& Hausa pages) /m43 /m50 /m51 /m52 /m54 /m129
Unicode resources /m3 /m5 /m23 /m28 /m30
Web content in Hausa (including demos) /m63 /m77 /m104 /m139
Web content in Hausa (international shortwave radio sites) /m107 /m139
Web content in Hausa (Wikipedia) /m130 /m131
Web directory in Hausa /m51 /m54 /m55
Off-topic (films) /m112 /m113
Edited 09-07-2015 10:18 AM
BisharatNetPerson was signed in when posted
10:26 PM ET (US)
Recently learned via a post by MultiLingual's Donna Parrish on Twitter that "Microsoft Language Portal updated with Windows 10 translations." Checked out their Language Portal, and found that they've got terms in 11 African languages (12 counting Arabic) including Hausa. The others are Amharic, Igbo, Kinyarwanda, Setswana, Swahili, Tigrinya, Wolof, Xhosa, Yoruba, and Zulu.

Impressive, but via the search feature on the Portal noted that use of Hausa Boko appears to be inconsistent. Some terms that would have hooked letters have instead the ASCII counterparts. For example, "ɗaya" (one) sometimes appears instead as "daya"; "huɗu" (four) is rendered as "hudu."
Edited 09-02-2015 02:33 PM
Tom Gewecke
07:15 AM ET (US)
On Nov 18, 2013, at 4:25 AM, QT - BisharatNet wrote:

> --QT-------------------------------------------------------------
> Reply by email or visit
> ------------------------------------------------------------- ---
> Thanks Tom, for the clarification. Pardon my ignorance (I'm the
> lone holdout in my immediate family who hasn't gone over to
> iPhone, iPad & Mac), but does that mean it's basically QWERTY
> (etc.) or some app? How does/did Apple add keyboards say for
> French or Arabic? Apps do a lot but if you're removed by a
> copy/paste step from whatever you're working on.

It's an app, users cannot add keyboards or fonts to iOS devices, or download any apps not in the Apple app store. The "closed" nature of the iOS system is one of its fundamental features since 2007.
Apple has gradually increased the language converge of installed keyboards over the years, but there is no way to predict how quickly they will respond to requests for new ones. The current set is listed in the tech specs

I agree the touchscreen keyboard opens whole new vistas in terms of multilingual input. However the layouts tend to be truncated because of the limited space available and in iOS you have to hit a modifier key to see numbers for example.
At least recently the font side of iOS has been opened up a little (but that's not an issue for Hausa I think):
BisharatNetPerson was signed in when posted
05:25 AM ET (US)
Thanks Tom, for the clarification. Pardon my ignorance (I'm the lone holdout in my immediate family who hasn't gone over to iPhone, iPad & Mac), but does that mean it's basically QWERTY (etc.) or some app? How does/did Apple add keyboards say for French or Arabic? Apps do a lot but if you're removed by a copy/paste step from whatever you're working on, that's still kind of second class.

I'm not as enthusiastic about touchscreens as some are (prefer them as an optional input method), but it would seem that one of their advantages is obviating a lot of the keyboard layout limits of the physical keyboard. I.e., call up anything from DVORAK to a Konyin layout to whatever, to conform to language orthography needs & user preference.

I think that's what the Nuance Swype concept is aiming at, though I don't currently use a system compatible with that either.

I'll repost the link to the Hausa typing app you mention (QT requires HTML markup to get the links "live"). It certainly looks like it would get the job done, which is the first consideration:

Edited 11-18-2013 05:31 AM
Tom Gewecke
10:33 AM ET (US)
On Nov 15, 2013, at 8:57 AM, QT - BisharatNet wrote:

> Has anyone tried creating a Hausa keyboard for touchscreen? Does
> one exist on iPads/iPhone

You can't really add keyboards to iOS devices, but there are a couple of keyboard apps for typing Hausa in the app store that let you compose emails or other text for use via copy/paste, etc.
BisharatNetPerson was signed in when posted
09:57 AM ET (US)
Has anyone tried creating a Hausa keyboard for touchscreen? Does one exist on iPads/iPhone, Android or other? I heard indirectly of someone suggesting development of Nuance Swype smart touchscreen keyboard for Hausa.

Nuance is the same company that has the Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition/speech-to-text program. Neither with that nor with any other of their products am I aware of any attention to African languages (in which they would not be unique). References on the Swype fyi:
Don Osborn
Edited 11-15-2013 09:58 AM
BisharatNetPerson was signed in when posted
01:59 PM ET (US)
Took a quick look at some of the Hausa phrases the Google rating site generated, and one impression was that use of the hooked consonants in Hausa Boko orthography was inconsistent. Will leave it to others to give a more thorough evaluation of that aspect.

The question on orthography had me going back to take a quick look at the websites of the five major international radio organizations that have Hausa services: BBC (UK), CRI (China), RDW (Germany), RFI (France), and VOA (US). Six years ago (see /m107 ) it seemed that all five used basic Latin/ASCII rather than the complete Boko alphabet. Now it appears that RDW is Boko, VOA inconsistent, and the other three are still limited to the ASCII character set. Some progress, but if Google Translate is pulling text off of these sites to add to its data, then the orthography of what it presents would inevitably be inconsistent.

Spam deleted by QuickTopic 09-01-2015 12:03 AM
BisharatNetPerson was signed in when posted
10:57 AM ET (US)
Dear subscribers, Due mainly to spam, I have had to close some other QT message boards set up for discussion of technical support for specific African languages. Happily, Hausa charsets and keyboards has not had the same level of problem, but it has not been used as much as it was several years ago.

If you think it is worth continuing this forum, I will not close it. (If I do close it, that just means that there will be no new messages allowed, but the forum will still be online and could technically still be opened again.)

This was the first of the language-specific QuickTopic boards set up (12 years ago - see /m1 ), and it really helped inspire not only a series of similar boards, but also the "A12n-collaboration" list that treated a number of issues about fonts and keyboards for African languages. By now, many of the technical challenges that prompted the creation of this forum have given way to a range of other challenges and opportunities, and the media we use for discussions have also changed.

Anyway, please let us know your opinions about whether this forum still has utility for what you are doing with Hausa on computers and the internet.

Sannu da aiki.

Don Osborn, PhD
Bisharat (A language, technology and development initiative)
Edited 08-30-2013 10:58 AM
02:57 PM ET (US)
I don't Know How To Use, That key Board,Adabin Hausa.
  Messages 135-134 deleted by author 02-25-2012 08:52 PM
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