African Storybook.

African Storybook provides “Open access to picture storybooks in the languages of Africa. For children’s literacy, enjoyment and imagination.” Corey Allen wrote about it for UBC News in 2014:

The African Storybook Project is an open access website that collects stories for download and translates them into a variety of African languages to be shared in the classroom through mobile phones, donated projectors and laptop computers. The project currently has 120 stories translated into 18 different languages. The stories address a lack of resources in the continent’s current education system.

Curriculum in many African countries stipulates children be taught in their native language until around Grade 4 and then transition to the country’s official language, often English or French. A lack of resources makes it difficult to teach children in their first language.

“If you want kids to be literate in English, it is helpful to be literate in their mother tongue first,” explains Bonny Norton, the project’s research advisor and professor in Language & Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia. “Reading is the foundation of learning. Without literacy, kids can’t excel in other subjects.”

The navigation takes getting used to (you can’t use the back button on your computer, you have to use their back arrow; to move ahead a page, click near the right side of the image; there’s a pull-down menu for languages), but it’s well worth it. Kids’ books are a great way to get some practice when you’re beginning a language, and of course they’re vital for the actual kids the project is aimed at. It’s interesting that the three books in Nigerian Pidgin are in English spelling as opposed to the kind of phonological orthography used by linguists; see the discussion in this recent thread.

Via MetaFilter, where there are more links.


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    It’s got some Mampruli and Dagbani stories, which is nice. Dagaare too. No Farefare, Mooré or Kusaal … still, Western Oti-Volta (rules!)

    It’s got one story in Krio, for those interested in what a West African English-lexifier creole looks like in an orthography not modelled on English.

  2. Yes, I was sorry not to see Kusaal.

  3. David Eddyshaw says

    I’ve got some Kusaal literacy materials in dead tree format, but they don’t seem to be aimed at children particularly. Still, who knows, what with KIds These Days?

    When I lived in the area, my impression was that most of the (unfortunately few) people who could read Kusaal had in fact acquired that art after becoming literate in English rather than the other way about. I’d be delighted if things have changed since, but also rather surprised. That’s certainly the way things ought to be; I suspect it’s not all that often the actual case with African languages other than one or two major-world-language-class ones like Swahili and Hausa, and special cases with a long literary tradition, like Amharic.

    All the more reason to welcome initiatives like these, of course; and that is pretty much the point that they’re making, I guess.

  4. SFReader says

    Mongolian has hundreds of fairy tales clips on Youtube.

    You see, like children everywhere, Mongolian children love stories read to them, but Mongolian parents (like parents everywhere) are too busy (or perhaps just too lazy), so they came up with this wonderful invention.

    They read fairy tales and record them to Youtube. And then every time the kid asks for a story, they just give him the Iphone and they are not bothered again for hours.

    2 year old Mongolian babies are reported to be able to type ‘ulger’ (fairy tale) on Youtube search bar.

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    Yes, I have. The dictionary is very nice, not least in marking tone.

    The grammatical sketch is a condensation of a short work Bodomo published in 1997, The Structure of Dagaare, one of the Stanford Monographs on African Languages. I have a number of issues with it.

    A fairly peripheral one is that Bodomo has a tendency to pronounce on “Mabia” (his name for Western Oti-Volta) languages based exclusively on his (L1) knowledge of Dagaare, e.g.

    derivational affixation is not a very developed phenomenon in Dagaare and other Mabia languages … this near lack of derivational morphology with respect to the verb is not surprising in such languages where verb serialization is very productive.

    This is actually simply an illusion caused by the extensive lenition of postvocalic consonants in Dagaare. Come to that, Dagaare verb serialisation is, if not an illusion exactly, to a great extent something created by the fact that the clause-linking particle realised as n in most WOV languages has become zero in Dagaare (as also in Toende, but not Agolle, Kusaal.) Kusaal doesn’t have verb serialisation at all, at least if you define it as Aikhenvald and Dixon do.

    I think Kusaal is actually representative of the whole WOV family in this.

    There are some good grammars of languages from the Dagaare-Dagara dialect chain in French, notably Le dagara-lobr by Alain Delplanque.

  6. Let this be a lesson to academics not to take their head shots while squinting into bright sunlight.

  7. David Eddyshaw says

    Actually, he looks a bit like me. (And I have a famously sunny disposition.)

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