Enthusiasts behind the Kelme team unveiled the “Lebnéne” app that will help people type in Lebanese as a way to express their culture through Lebanese letters.
The Kelme team includes Lebanese-language devotees from several domains who created a tool to help the Lebanese-speaking community around the world express themselves simply.
The process of making and evaluating the letters involved the work of 8 people coming from different backgrounds, including:
Telecom engineer and Poet in Lebanese Elias Bou Issa; Professional Arabic Translator/Reviser Marcelle Nassif; filmmaker and performer Alex Dahdah; History professor Father Georges Kamel; language coach and writer Micheline Habib; and Keith Galdies, the app’s software developer.
After a year of research, the team succeeded in creating a Lebanese alphabet consisting of 35 letters that reflect the sounds of common vernaculars after surveying anonymous respondents from different backgrounds.
When asked about the inspiration behind the initiative, Kelme told 961 that since the first alphabet was invented “on our shores,” and since Latin was modified by many communities, “we deemed that using the Latin alphabet in a modified way to accommodate the specific phonology of Lebanese is the best option out there.”
The initiative is revolutionizing the Lebanese alphabet by making it international and recognizable, especially for the Lebanese diaspora who were not schooled in Arabic.
“So we have replaced the letters in Arabizi, namely the ع خ خ ص ط with novel letters,” the team explained.
The initiative is not restricted to the alphabet, as it aims to be a reference by covering proverbs, lyrics, poetry, morphology, and grammar “to ultimately form a repository that could be consulted by locals and mostly by diaspora.”
Additionally, the “Lebnéne” keyboard is a tool that will promote the Lebanese culture and language. The Kelme team has also compiled a dictionary of Lebanese vernacular and a grammar manual.
Kelme revealed to 961 that the team is also working on children’s stories in Lebanese.
“We have always been reading children’s books in Arabic, a language no one speaks, while European children had the privilege of having books in the very language they speak.”
“As far as the costs go, they have been paid from our pockets to make the keyboard available free of charge for people who would like to write their language,” they added.
While chatting with 961, the team expressed that Lebanese is a pidgin language, just like other Levantine dialects, born out of coexistence between Aramaic and Arabic, adding that it deserves recognition by forming an alphabet that reproduces its sounds.
The “Lebnéne” keyboard/app is now available on AppStore and “ƹa qbél l android” soon.