JaLingo: your mobile patwa consultant


Biko Kennedy, Youthlink Writer

Upon leaving university, most if not all graduates are faced with two options: work for someone else or create a path for themselves. Such was the case for Jason Solomon, Nicholai Marston and Jonathan Ackun. Creating JaLingo - a free Jamaican dictionary/translator on the iOS platform which allows the world to understand the Jamaican dialect - the trio has created a path for themselves with hopes of doing bigger and better things.

YL: What were the underlining reasons behind the creation of the app?

Jason Solomon (JS): Well, we actually decided to create this program having left university and not wanting to work for anyone - having that entrepreneur moment. It was Nicholai's idea to create a Jamaican app, but at the time we really didn't have the proper resources and we couldn't jump at it right away. A few months passed and we acquired the necessary resources. During the summer of 2012, we did the application in the same period of the Olympics and the Jamaica 50th, so that kind of fuelled our desire to make this application a priority.

YL: Prior to the actual development of the application, the idea stemmed from the Digital Jam workshop that took place?

JS: Yes. The Digital Jam 2.0 workshop was where the idea was born in June-July of 2012. We were placed in groups to create ideas reflective of topics and we did have JaLingo as an idea, but it wasn't really recognised at the moment. We didn't lose hope in the idea though.

YL: Did you seek out a sponsor in the beginning stages?

JS: No, we didn't. I guess we kind of doubted ourselves in terms of seeing how much of a major success it could be such as Twitter or Instagram. At the moment, we just saw it as another application floating around, but there are other applications being worked on and we'll knock on the doors of a few sponsors.

YL: Did you partner with any Jamaican dictionaries to get access to words and their meanings, or are the words purely selected based on you guys' discretion and their popularity?

JS: The words that are currently being used in the application are the ones that are most common in our dialect at the moment. In terms of outsourcing words, we haven't done that yet mainly because of copyright issues and royalty issues and all those stuff, but it is an option to explore, given the right opportunities. So, the words and definitions found in the app are purely based on our interpretations.

YL: Wouldn't that devalue the credibility of the application then, seeing that you guys aren't linguistic majors?

JS: It would, to the extent where words and their meanings vary in spelling and translations, which is why there is a limit in terms of what the general meaning of certain terms are. It is a growing venture, though, and we do intend to expand definitions and possible/varying spellings of words.

YL: Since the development of the application, what has the reception been like?

JS: It's been good so far. There's a section in the program that allows persons to give feedback or ask for more information on particular words or phrases they still can't comprehend. Since the release date - December 3 - I've received over 20 responses from varying countries; the most recent being from someone in Arabia and we've had more than 200 downloads, and growing.

YL: What would attract persons to downloading this application as opposed to just using Google?

JS: (Laughing) Based on our research, there are currently two other applications that are of the same nature of ours, but they are paid applications and this is free and, naturally, persons gravitate to things that are free faster than anything else. Plus, the paid ones are built by Americans and have a number of reference points, as opposed to giving a straightforward approach as ours does. That is the main advantage JaLingo has over them. Plus, it's mobile and easy to access with devices.

YL: Are there any improvements currently being made?

JS: Yes, we're actually working towards having the words being used in phrases to go along with the meanings; also having sounds attached to the words so persons can hear what they actually sound like. We'll want to not limit the translations to only English, but Spanish and French as well, and also having Jamaican proverbs as an option.

YL: It's only the iOS version out now?

JS: For now, yes, which is compatible with all iOS devices - the iPhone, the iPod, and the iPad - but the Android version is being worked on and should be released soon.

For more information and a download link check out