Informing to take action and also cutting rumors short, difficult when countries speak dozens of languages ​​and translations can be dangerous.

In Senegal, we could use French and say “Stay home” to protect you from coronavirus. But French, widely spoken, is not the only language used in the country. There is also, of course, Wolof, the language of everyday life, but not only. You can also add the mandingo. In all, 21 languages ​​are listed in Senegal. So, for prevention messages, a choice will have to be made. “Stay home”, “tooglen sen ker” in Wolof, “An ka tô sô” in Mandinka, and why not “Fica na casa” in Creole.

Africa is a linguistic mosaic. There are no less than 500 languages ​​for Nigeria, champion in all categories. The official language is English. But 60 million Nigerians speak Pidgin, a Creole language based on English. Hausa is the mother tongue of 44 million people, especially in the north of the country. We can add the Yoruba and its 42 million speakers, the Igbo 35 million, to speak only of the most important.

So, being understood by all is a serious headache. At the same time source of additional expenses, but also of hazardous translations. “Of course, all these languages ​​express the disease. But the differences in translation and interpretation can be significant. This linguistic situation must be analyzed and taken into account because it can be a problem for prevention messages.“Explains to franceinfo Afrique anthropologist Yannick Jaffré.

In 2009, in a newspaper article The world, researcher Henry Tourneux, specialist in African languages ​​and cultures, explained: “In Africa, local languages ​​are best suited to widely disseminate information on health, disease prevention …”

He took the example of a campaign on sexually transmitted diseases carried out in Mali, Cameroon and Burkina Faso, which had been a failure. Certain health instructions had been formulated in French. And the difficulties of translation, on a subject where there are unspoken and taboo issues, had not been taken into account.

Some have understood the need for a universal language. And what such as the image, as this work of graffiti artists, initiated by the University of Dakar shows.

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