A pan-African language designed to help people overcome old rivalries and help countries where tribal divisions exist has been developed by a team in Kenya. A social media platform promoting the language will present it to attendees at the eLearning Africa Conference in Addis Ababa this week.
The language is called “Sheng”. It is a blend of Kiswahili, English, words from Kenya’s different ethnic groups and words borrowed from Arabic, Hindu and several European languages. “Sheng” originated and is reportedly being used in some of the areas affected by the violence that followed the 2007 presidential election in Kenya.
The new language inspired the formation of a social enterprise called “Go Sheng” which promotes the new language for Kenyans.
“Sheng has the potential to be with us for generations to come. As curators of this language and culture, we at Go Sheng hope to preserve this urban language and provide a platform for social dialogue among its speakers.”says Go Sheng PR and Projects Officer Kelvin Okoth in a press release.
Go Sheng has developed a dictionary and runs various social media channels in an effort to make the language more accessible. In this way, Go Sheng mirrors the development of South Africa’s Scamto and which was championed by business man Lebo Motshegoa as far back as 2002. Scamto remains popular among young South Africans. The Sheng dictionary contains 3900 words.
The most popular constructed language in the world is Esperanto, which is spoken by around two million people and was invented in the late 19th century as an easy to learn language that’s politically neutral.
eLearning Africa takes place at African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa and focuses on technology-assisted learning, training and development.
How widely used is Sheng? We don’t really know, if we’re honest, but we’d be very interested to hear from people who use it or experts in the field.