Pulaar is a language spoken by the Fulani people of West Africa. But, for the most part of the existence of the people, no one had developed an alphabet for the language. In the wake of this need, the Barry brothers began an initiative in 1989 to fill this void. They developed an alphabet for their native language, which eventually became known as ADLaM – an acronym for a phrase that translates to “the alphabet that will prevent a people from being lost.”
But, in order to preserve it for future generations, they commenced another project to digitize the alphabet. The brothers, Ibrahim and Abdoulaye Barry, after a successful pilot, outdoored the ADLaM Display recently with the support of Microsoft and McCann NY. The new digital version of ADLaM is now available for use across the Microsoft 365 suite, desktop, and mobile platforms, capping the vision of the Barry brothers to preserve the nomadic culture and promote literacy among them.
What sets the new ADLaM version apart from the early version is that it can be widely accessed on the internet. This was facilitated by the upgrade made to the new interface to include new letters that factor in the evolution of the Fulani language, according to McCann NY.
It is believed that 90 percent of the world’s language will be extinct by the end of the century. According to Shayne Millington, Co-Chief Creative Officer, McCann NY, that was the reason they partnered with the brothers on the project to secure the future of a significant culture in the world. Myths, rituals, and deep knowledge of the Fulani community now have a chance of being saved. This is seen as offering the nomadic tribe the opportunity to transition between the old and new worlds while enjoying their culture and identity as a people.
Chief Brand Officer at Microsoft, Kathleen Hall, expressed the confidence that the effort will be embraced beyond the Fulani community and help preserve the cultural heritage of the nomadic tribesmen. As a result of the collective effort, ADLaM has been successfully embraced by the Fulani and has gained popularity in the community across West Africa and the Fulani diaspora worldwide. The first two ADLaM-focused schools have been opened in Guinea and for the first time, will allow Fulani children to study a full curriculum in their mother tongue.
Also, the Mali Government is in the process of recognizing ADLaM as an official alphabet in its constitution and Guinea has taken steps to ensure ADLaM is recognized as Pulaar’s official alphabet.