Swahili becomes first African language to be recognised by Twitter

After many years of being referred to as Indonesian, social networking site Twitter has finally recognized the Swahili language and offers a translation of the popular East and Southern African language.

Since last week, Twitter began detecting the language in tweets and now offers a close to perfect translation. The news has excited many speakers including the Kenyan government whose country recognizes the lingua as a national language.

Swahili is spoken by over 50 million people in a number of African nations including Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, and DR Congo.

The pressure to have Twitter recognize the native language peaked in April, after Swahili-speaking Kenyans, Tanzanians, Ugandans, and Congolese users pushed for its recognition with hashtags like #SwahiliIsNotIndonesian and #TwitterRecognizeSwahili. Prior to its inclusion, Swahili was often mistaken for Indonesian on the popular app.

Kenyans are amongst the most active social media users on the continent, CNN reports. Young people in the country have often used Twitter to create viral hashtags and political memes as an interface for political discourse, celebration of culture, and even protest.

It is unclear when Twitter started recognizing Swahili but elated reactions such as Brand Kenya‘s, which responded on 3 May followed after the change was noticed.

“We made noise, a lot of noise; regarding #SwahiliIsNotIndonesian and #TwitterRecognizeSwahili. We take this earliest opportunity to say thank you to Twitter for listening. Thank you for recognising Swahili,” the handle wrote.

While the transition has not been fully completed, the translation can now allow millions of East African users to engage with content in a new way.