Smartphone keyboards designed for traditional languages at cutting edge of their survival

An international software firm developing smartphone keyboards specifically designed to write in traditional languages is helping people protect their language.

The project, called Keyman, allows people to type in one of more than 600 different languages, most of which are majority languages.

A majority language is one spoken by large groups of people such as English, Spanish, or Mandarin.

Keyman has been developed by not-for-profit company SIL International, and lead software developer Marc Durdin said it was created in 1993 originally for the Lao language.

“We had people in other parts of South-East Asia discover the program and ask to adapt it to other languages, then we made it more accessible,” he said.

“But as we started to expand out into other languages, we made it more language agnostic so that it would provide the resources to allow you to adapt it to a language, but not actually have any language knowledge.

Mr. Durdin said Keyman relied on “language champions” to put their language forward to be digitised.

“There’s a tool called Keyman Developer that you can use to create a keyboard layout,” he said.

“Because that tool doesn’t care about the language, it means we’ve had 500 to 600 people contribute keyboard layouts for different languages.”

Read more: ABC News

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