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Story of ADLaM – ‘the alphabet that will prevent a people from being lost’ – now a limited-run hardcover book from Story Labs

The African language Fulfulde is spoken by more than 50 million people worldwide. But until recently this centuries-old language lacked an alphabet of its own.

Abdoulaye and Ibrahima Barry were just young boys when they set out to change that. While other children were out playing, the Barry brothers would hole up in their family’s house in Nzérékoré, Guinea, carefully drawing shapes on paper that would eventually become ADLaM – an acronym for “the alphabet that will prevent a people from being lost.”

In the decades since, ADLaM has sparked a revolution in literacy, community and cultural preservation among Fulani people across the world. Abdoulaye and Ibrahima have dedicated their lives to sustaining these efforts, including expanding ADLaM’s reach through Unicode adoption. And thanks to support from a dedicated cross-company team at Microsoft, ADLaM is now available in Windows and Office.

My team at Microsoft Story Labs recently had the privilege of working with Abdoulaye and Ibrahima on a longform feature story about ADLaM. Today I’m happy to announce that we’ve printed a limited-run book version of that story that contains both the original English and an ADLaM translation, so the community of millions now using ADLaM can enjoy it in print. A few copies of the book will be available in a contest giveaway by Microsoft Design on Twitter. The rest will go directly into the hands of the amazing people behind the unique achievement that is ADLaM.

When you’ve been working in the digital realm for most of your career like I have, it’s kind of a treat to make something you can hold in your own two hands! But the biggest reward here was the opportunity to shine a light on remarkable people like Abdoulaye and Ibrahima who have achieved so much, and the team at Microsoft who lent a hand.

Steve Wiens

Microsoft Story Labs

Story by Deborah Bach & Sara Lerner. Design by Daniel Victor.

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