The traditional language of France’s Alsace region, on its eastern border, is Alsatian, a dialect of German that is currently endangered. Although an estimated sixty percent of Alsatians can speak this dialect, only about thirty-five percent are fluent. Furthermore, the majority of the fluent speakers represent the senior population—a group who speaks little French and has had minimum exposure to ICT.
To address the challenge of preserving Alsatian for future generations, Microsoft and the Alsace Regional Council developed a partnership. Together, they implemented an Alsatian version of the Microsoft Office system through the Microsoft Local Language Program (LLP). The Alsace Regional Council, assisted by the Office pour la Langue et la Culture Alsacienne (OCLA) put together a team of fifteen translators to translate more than fifty thousand words and terms for the glossary.
The team also implemented the Alsatian Captions for Local Interface Program (CLIP). CLIP makes it possible for a cursor placed over a menu item or command in French to display the Alsatian translation. Not only does this automated translation make it possible for computer-savvy young Alsatians to learn their language through computer use, it also enables older Alsatian-speaking residents of the region to become computer literate by engaging technology in a language most familiar to them. It is estimated that CLIP will expand computer usage in the region by fifteen percent in 2009 alone.
Through these programs, Microsoft is helping the Alsatian language to evolve, a key element in language survival, by creating terms for new concepts and phrases of the twenty-first century. Furthermore, the initiative is fostering global citizenship in Alsace, whose residents are proud to be working on a high-tech solution to the global challenge of language preservation.