To commemorate International Mother Language Day, held on February 21 each year, an Egyptian magazine decided to interview the co-founder of the Nubi-App, a repository of the Nubian language.

The logo of the Nubi app
The logo of the Nubi app

Momen Talosh told the magazine Egypt Today that the app is being regularly updated and that it has been downloaded 13,000 times. It focuses on simple Nubian sentences to help people deal with daily situations, he said. It has other features designed to promote Nubian culture, such as a guide to popular Nubian-style restaurants and cafes in Egypt. The app also helps market products made by Nubians.

He said that the slogan of the organizers is, “we bring Al-Nuba to your fingertips.” It offers lessons in both dialects of the Nubian language, Kinzi and Visicci, by using animated cartoon characters that have original Nubian names. Mr. Talosh is collaborating with others in an initiative that hopes to have Nubian added to the Google Translate service, with the associated keyboard options.

Nubian girls in Aswan, the third or fourth generation Nubians
Nubian girls in Aswan, the third or fourth generation Nubians (photo by babletravel in Flickr, Creative Commons license)

In his opinion, usage of the Nubian language has declined due to the diaspora caused by the destruction of Old Nubia by the Nile dams at Aswan and the relocation of so many people to the major Egyptian cities, Cairo and Alexandria. The first generation of refugees spoke and understood their language, the second generation still understood it even if they rarely spoke it, and the third generation, the grandchildren of the Nubian refugees, neither speak nor understand spoken Nubian. Talosh is alarmed that the language is on the way to going extinct. Hence, the need for his app.

Last July, the online daily newspaper Egypt Independent published a similar, and somewhat more informative, article about the Nubi app. According to that report, the aim of the app is not only to foster the use of Nubian by younger people but to also promote appreciation of Nubian culture more widely. It launched in February 2017.

A page from a manuscript in Old Nubian that shows the original characters
A page from a manuscript in Old Nubian that shows the original characters (Photo by Mustafaa of a mss. in the British Museum, in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

Talosh, a programmer, told the reporter that he got the idea for the app one day while he was trying to teach some Nubian letters and numbers to his young cousin. The youngster couldn’t be diverted from the wonders offered by his tablet, so the programmer decided to take his message into the kid’s online world. “The language is dying, and Nubi app is trying to let it reach the world and provide access for everybody,” he told the newspaper.

The Nubi app includes photos and stories from Old Nubia plus historical facts and information. It also includes links to books written by Nubian authors, Nubian songs and proverbs, plus information about the pronunciation of spoken Nubian. Talosh works for a programming company in its applications support department.

The Egypt Independent story indicated that the app will encourage Nubian vendors to market their products. It will provide tourists with useful information when they are going to Aswan, such as restaurants, hotels, bazaars, and spots for people to visit. “This will support internal tourism in Egypt, and it will also help marketing the Nubian vendors who have a great talent in the handmade crafts,” Talosh added.