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​How Android is helping keep a Pakistani language alive

Google builds a keyboard that lets residents of Pakistan's Swat Valley type on Android phones in Torwali, their endangered native language.

View of Bahrain, the main town of the Torwali community, in Pakistan's Swat Valley.
Google Asia/Screenshot by CNET/Photo by Aftab Ahmad

You've likely never heard of Torwali, one of 27 highly-endangered Pakistani languages. But now its roughly 80,000 speakers can use their native language to text and make status updates on their Android phones.

Zubair Torwali, who heads up an organization that works to promote northern Pakistan's languages, explained in Google's Asia blog Friday how a Google engineer helped his group build Torwali into a virtual Google keyboard, or Gboard. It can be used by Android phones running Jelly Bean or higher.

Amid mounting pressures to speak the dominant Pashto language, Torwali only just got a written alphabet about a decade ago, Zubair Towali said.

Now it can be tweeted!