Madagascar Network

Tonga Soa!

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that there are much less materials online for learning Malagasy than there are for other languages. The only online language course that I know of on Malagasy is in French and it is quite old as well. Over half the languages that are on Google Translate are much smaller in population and many are official languages nowhere, yet Malagasy still doesn't have a showing there.

With this post I would like to do a bit change that, but being a non-native speaker I would hope that the below will offer some guidance to help others who might like to help foreigners learn Malagasy. I want to give native Malagasy speakers who'd like to see the influence of their language grow in the international community three places that they can help out by creating material for those who are serious about learning Malagasy, or even those who are just curious, could go. But before going any further I want to sink one word in:

collaboration

Yep. Collaboration is how someone who is at home, who is not a teacher, who has a day job (or night job as it may be) will be able to add to the corpus of Malagasy out there for non-natives to use. You can do as much or as little as you want, but every little bit helps. And I can give you some great places to start:

Forvo

Forvo is a very ambitious project that aims to get every word from every language recorded. It is an excellent platform for someone who doesn't have a lot of time but would like to help out some. But quite honestly, Malagasy, as of today is looking very, very weak on Forvo. If you go to Malagasy's language page you see that there are only 18 Malagasy speakers there who have recorded only 54 words (three per?) and even then at least one of the recorded words I have listened to was not even the word written. This is a place that you could make a great impact on helping foreigners lot learn your language by simply checking the words that are pronounced and voting them up or down or even re-recording them. You can help even more by adding words and recording the yet unrecorded words.

Remember, Forvo is only for individual words. This is not for longer constructs.

RhinoSpike

What Forvo is for the pronunciation of individual words RhinoSpike is spoken sentences, phrases, passages, paragraphs, etc. RhinoSpike is really good for developing listening comprehension skills. How is works is that someone who is a student of a particular language will enter a sentence, phrase, passage, paragraph, etc., that they'd like to be able to download. A native of this language will record the request and you will be notified. You can listen to the recording online or download it for use with your iPod, flashcards, etc. It is a great service but there are no Malagasy speakers using it. In fact I have requested them to add Malagasy, which I am sure they will do as they have added Volapük on request.

Tatoeba Project

Like RhinoSpike, I have recently made a request for Malagasy to be added here and I expect this will be done very soon. Tatoeba could be loosely described as a "sentence dictionary". This project is an attempt to link all languages by meanings from sentences rather than individual words. Malagasy speakers can help in a few ways here. Firstly, they can check sentences in other languages they might know, like French, English, Swahili, etc., then translate them into Malagasy there online. Also, Malagasy speakers could actually add the sentences in Malagasy directly. You can also make recordings of the sentences, correct incorrect sentences, etc. But Tatoeba brings the language together in a way that others don't. It shows you how the language should actually be used, which is something that learners of Malagasy desperately need.

All three of the above services are collaborative. They are free for their users and they encourage native speakers to help their languages to be known in other communities. I think that the reason that Malagasy isn't used much on these has more to do with the fact that these services are unknown other than anything else. I say this because as of today, the Malagasy Wikipedia is the 67th largest out of 159 wikipedias with 37,857 articles and the Malagasy Wiktionary is the third largest wiktionary in the world, with 1,522,499 pages, only smaller than English and French and ahead of Chinese! I know that if Malagasy can build the world's third largest wiktionary that with a little effort these same collaborators can give some really strong boosts to Forvo, RhinoSpike and Tatoeba. It would do lots for those of us out here looking for online materials to help us learn "teny gasy"!

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