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Helping the Fulfulde Language Have an Online Presence Through Memes

(Approximate translation: “Courage is a weapon that never gets dull”)

Tafsir Balde is taking part in the Mother Language Meme Challenge creating memes in his mother language of Fulfulde (also known as Fula, Peul, Pulaar).

Currently pursuing his PhD degree in African Studies at the Al Karawin University in Morocco, Tafsir has been an active promoter of his language. Together with a group of colleagues, he founded the Peeral Media Network (PMN), which has been creating online content to provide information about and in the language on a variety of platforms.

In 2014, he was interviewed by Abdoulaye Bah of Global Voices about International Mother Language Day, and now he is taking part in this most recent Challenge. In an interview with Rising Voices, he shares more information about the state of his language and bout his participation in this Challenge, where he has been sharing his memes on his personal Twitter account (@tafsirbald) and on the group account (@misiide). He also helped translate the Mother Language Meme Challenge website into Fulfulde.

Rising Voices: What is the current state of your language both offline and on the internet?

Tafsir Balde: Fulfulde is a transnational language par excellence; dispersed in more than 20 African countries, from Mauritania in the West to Sudan and beyond in the East, spoken by approximately 70 million people. Unfortunately this language has no institutional support whatsoever. And to date, none of the mainstream media such as RFI, BBC and VOA have yet to introduce Fulfulde in their programs.

The production of works has been tried with mixed success. Linguists have written about the language extensively, and few magazines have been published in Fulfulde. However, generally because of lack of institutional support, books and magazines have always had a very limited radius of diffusion, and the high cost of printing also means that magazines or books in this language are not easily accessible.

Concerning its state on the internet, it is still limited to the works of volunteers. There are few websites dedicated to the language, such as the websites of PMN: Misiide.net and Peeral.com (offline for technical reasons). Pulaar.org, and Pulaagu.com are also websites which exclusively publish in Fulfulde.

The main purpose of this website is to promote Fulfulde in the field of information and communications technologies (ICTs). In this regard, PMN members contributed more than 60% of the Fulfulde translations on Facebook. Within a short time Facebook in Fulfulde was launched. That is why I created the meme “Facebook wowlii Pular” with the translation “Facebook has spoken Fulfulde.”

RV: Why did you decide to participate in the Mother Language Meme Challenge?

TB: One of the objectives of PMN is to contribute to the availability and the presence of under-resourced language content on the internet, my participation in the Mother Language Meme Challenge was to make a humble contribution during this important celebration of linguistic diversity online. Through this, we are also increasing Fulfulde’s presence online.

RV: Who would you like to challenge to create a meme in this language?

TB: I would like to invite some of my colleagues from PMN to participate because there are people in this group who are dedicated to this type of challenges.

Find more memes from the Mother Language Meme Challenge in a variety of global languages by checking out the #MemeML hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. There is also a Facebook group for the Challenge with contributions from all across the world.

1 comment

  • Karfa Jamanka

    I am very impressed by all those who are fighting for the promotion of the Fulani language, especially to people like Mr. Tafsir Baldeh in the interview above.
    By far the fulfulde language is the largest single language spoken in Africa today minus Arabic (North Africa) and Swahili to some extent.
    However, I very much believe that the major problem is none other than just the issue Tafsir raised herein above; the total lack of any institutional support for the language! I always tell fellow Fulani friends that if the Fulani were some trouble making ethnic group in a given piece of land called their own country, media giants like the BBC, RFI, VOA, etc would have been broadcasting in fulfulde. The main reason why no institution comes to the rescue of the fulfulde is because these neocolonial media giants are simply funded by their governments to specifically follow a given political agenda.In the absence of any viable fulani political entity, therefore, it serves them no interest to support and promote this language.
    I hope and pray that a much more sensitization, both through the use of online media and directly to the Fulanis themselves, will eventually bring us platforms for a better development of this all important language.

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