Voice of America's Bambara Orthography and a Petition

A few years ago, the Voice of America (VOA) begin broadcasting in Bambara. Those of us that follow their written articles have long noticed that the writing is well, not standard. In short, it’s written in an ad hoc manner that uses French orthographic conventions to roughly transcribe things in Bambara. Here’s a recent sample from their Facebook with a lively discussion that leads to the following...

A colleague, Ibrahima Cissé has begun a petition to appeal to VOA to train their journalists to properly write Bambara in a way that is both official in Mali and in line with a system that has been painstakingly elaborated, taught and learned by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people.

Of course, many people do not know how to read or write Bambara following the official orthography, given that Mali’s education system is francophone. As such, lots of individuals spontaneously send text messages and the like in Bambara written “à la française”. In a recent article of mine, I discussed the ways that groups such as the French Telecom company Orange seem to opt to write Bambara in this way instead of following official orthography. As such, there’s an open question of whether the Voice of America is actively choosing to write Bambara in this manner too.

Regardless, I’ve signed the petition because it seems a waste to openly ignore a system that is both official and taught to and used by arguably millions of people who are not francophone.