fulani, microsoft

Fulani Brothers Create An alphabet To Help Preserve Their West African Language And Culture

These brothers were the last hope to save a language. 

Ibrahima and Abdoulaye Barry have partnered with Microsoft and McCann NY to preserve the language, Pulaar, spoken by the Fulani people of West Africa. They have launched ADLam Display, which is a development of the Pulaar alphabet.

“ADLaM, the acronym, A, D, L, M, Alkule Dandayɗe Leñol Mulugol, literally means it is the alphabet that will prevent the culture, the people, from disappearing. What we meant by that is not the people, themselves, will disappear, but the fact that ADLaM will allow us to preserve our culture,” the Fulani Brothers said, according to Little Black Book

Since 2018, the brothers have collaborated with Microsoft to develop the Pulaar alphabet. With the support of McCann NY, ADLaM has been digitized. The digital version can be accessed on the Microsoft 365 suite, as well as on desktop and mobile platforms.

Although more than 40 million people speak Pulaar, an official alphabet for the language had not been established until recently. To preserve the culture and native language of their people, the Barry brothers designed a handwritten form of the Pulaar alphabet in 1989. 

The next step for the brothers was to create a version of the alphabet that was functional and would allow for communication across digital platforms. Furthermore, the digital version would provide a means of communication for business and research endeavors. 

McCann NY and a group of typeface designers sought ways to make the alphabet more practical for use among the Fulani community. This led to a digital, up-to-date version of the alphabet that is written and read more easily. The team made sure to account for the evolution of the Fulani community and their language by using new letterforms. 

A core concern the project seeks to address is illiteracy by enhancing educational provisions that are digitized in the classroom. The Barry brothers and McCann created classroom materials and a book to teach writing. A children’s book was also designed to teach the alphabet and aspects of Fulani culture. 

This year, two ADLaM-focused schools will open in Guinea, allowing students to learn completely in their native language for the first time. The Mali government is working to recognize ADLaM as an official alphabet in addition to the Minister of Education in Guinea certifying ADLaM as Pulaar’s official alphabet. 

The revised alphabet is available on unlocked.microsoft.com as ADLam Display font.