• About Nandini


    India’s Mobile Problem: 22 Languages, 1 English Language OS

    by  • March 5, 2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    Quartz has a great story about the Indian mobile market, the second biggest market after China. What’s keeping it from blowing up?

    There are officially 21 recognized languages in India, each with its own script. And while India is known as an Anglophone nation, speaking English is largely the domain of middle or upper-class educated urban folk. A lot of them communicate phonetically using the English alphabet, but that doesn’t work for the rest.

    The majority of Indians (70%) live in rural areas and can’t functionally use their English phones.

    It’s interesting to see how Abhijit Bhattacharjee has approached this design problem:

    Bhattacharjee’s solution is ingenious. Panini Keypad, named for a Sanskrit linguist, turns the screen into a virtual keypad corresponding to the 12 buttons on older phones. After a user types in the first character of a word, the phone displays a set of letters in a 3×4 grid corresponding to the keypad. An algorithm picks the characters it thinks will most likely come next, based on a corpus of literature from that language. Instead of clicking repeatedly until the right character is displayed, the user can pick one from that set or go on to the next screen.


    The above image shows what the (now dead) Sanskrit language- the parent of many of today’s Indian languages. Each letter undergoes a variation when you go from “ka” to “kee” or “kay,” which works out so intuitively with pen and a paper. To reduce that into a 12-button phone is a phenomenal task that will empower rural peoples with an important communication tool that they’ve effectively been sidelined from using.

    What Does Aramaic Sound Like?

    by  • February 28, 2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    It was once as popular as English is today- spoken by Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and known as far away as China. But as NPR reports, it’s slowly disappearing. Scholars believe it will be vanish within the next two generations.

    For inquiring minds: click over to NPR to hear the sounds of Aramaic. What other languages do you think it resembles?



    They’re Already Gone: Rebels in Mali Set Fire To Manuscripts Dating Back To 1200′s

    by  • January 30, 2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments


    File this one under “historic loss.”

    Among the casualties in Mali’s internal conflict is a library containing thousands of historic manuscripts from as far back as the year 1204. The manuscripts had for survived through the centuries, hidden and preserved by Timbuktu residents through both peaceful and difficult times.

    The vast majority of the texts were written in Arabic. A few were in African languages, such as Songhai, Tamashek and Bambara. There was even one in Hebrew. They covered a diverse range of topics including astronomy, poetry, music, medicine and women’s rights. The oldest dated from 1204.

    Seydou Traoré, who has worked at the Ahmed Baba Institute since 2003, and fled shortly before the rebels arrived, said only a fraction of the manuscripts had been digitised. “They cover geography, history and religion. We had one in Turkish. We don’t know what it said.”

    He said the manuscripts were important because they exploded the myth that “black Africa” had only an oral history. “You just need to look at the manuscripts to realise how wrong this is.”

    Timbuktu’s mayor called it “a devastating blow.” And it really is. We’ll never get that human history back.