Die Virtuele Instituut vir Afrikaans (VivA) en markbehoeftes in die Afrikaanse gemeenskap
Van Huyssteen, Gerhardus B.
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The Virtual Institute for Afrikaans (VivA) is a research institute and service provider for Afrikaans in digital contexts. It is a registered non-profit company, with the Afrikaanse Taal- en Kultuurvereniging (ATKV), North-West University (NWU), Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns (SAAWK), and Trust vir Afrikaanse Onderwys (TAO) as its founding members. In order to make informed choices regarding VivA's product and service offering, mixed method research was conducted to determine shortcomings in the Afrikaans offering of digital language products. For purposes of the quantitative research, an online questionnaire was completed by 319 respondents (demographic representation of mostly white, mother-tongue speakers of Afrikaans between the ages of 30 and 65), while a focus group with ten respondents (mostly white, mother-tongue speakers of Afrikaans between 15 and 62) was used to gather qualitative information. The focus group session was recorded, transcribed, coded and then analysed to derive seven key themes that are associated with VivA. One of the key findings is that a large part of the Afrikaans users in this sample did not know of the existence of the Afrikaans Wiktionary and Wikipedia. This finding directed VivA's priorities in other directions, although it will keep on exploring ideas and methods to change this perception.It was also clear that Afrikaans users have a need for four specific Afrikaans electronic aids, namely an online/mobile version of the Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls (Afrikaans Word-list and Spelling Rules); an Afrikaans grammar checker; a terminology bank; and automatictranslation tools. Despite the fact that the majority of respondents had a fairly negative experience with regard to automatic translation assistance, it was found that a significant number of respondents are still positive about it, and have a strong need for such a high-quality product. On the basis of this research, the needs of the Afrikaans community related to language products and services were determined, and various products and services were introduced in order to meet these identified needs. Hence, VivA's initial products and services offering includes:a dictionary portal (where users can access various free and commercial dictionaries online, as well as via an online and offline Android and iOS app); grammar portal (where users, especially international researchers, can access extensive information about the phonology, morphology and syntax of Afrikaans, presented comparatively with Dutch and Frisian as part of the international Taalportaal project); language advice portal (where users can get telephonic and online answers to language-related questions from a professional language advisor); corpus portal (where users can do online corpus queries in a large and growing collection of written and transcribed spoken Afrikaans corpora); and information portal (with access to a blog, competitions, etcetera). The article concludes with an overview of potential future research and development topics, including a motivation for the need for regular technology audits.
- Faculty of Humanities