For my final project, I created a suite of Windows, Mac, and Linux keyboard layouts for the Rohingya Hanifi script. I felt this project could be useful to the community because the Rohingya are currently a displaced refugee population with very low literacy rates. A keyboard layout could make literacy (and computer literacy) education easier, as well as lightening the load on Rohingya interpreters, who, according to Translators without Borders, are in high demand right now and often work in stressful and even traumatizing conditions.
See the poster for a visual representation of the layout, as well as references and other information:
Evaluating my project was not straightforward because I could not locate a standard set of criteria as to what constitutes a successful keyboard layout. Measuring the efficiency of a layout directly appears to be quite difficult, especially in the absence of a collaborator who can read and type the language and script for which the layout was designed. Instead, I decided to propose some criteria of my own and then consider how well my layout fulfills them. These are just preliminary guidelines, and I hope others will expand upon them in the future.
- Does the layout contain the necessary characters for writing in the language? Yes
- Is the layout sensibly organized (i.e., all numbers on the same row)? Yes
- Does the layout resemble layouts the population might already be familiar with? Judging from low literacy rates, most Rohingya are likely not familiar with any keyboard layouts
- Does the layout avoid sensitive political implications? At least moreso than basing it on Bangla or Burmese (implying that Rohingya is just a variety of Bangla could be bad because that's one of the arguments the Myanmar government and others have used to assert that the Rohingya are illegal interlopers from Bangladesh)
- Does the layout offer easy access to frequently-used characters? Yes, comma and period are accessible with one keystroke (that said, I don't have data about which Hanifi characters are most common in Rohingya texts)
- Since Rohingya characters will not be added to the Unicode Standard until June 5, 2018 and the fonts are not yet implemented, everything will just show up as boxes until then
- We should have better ways of evaluating the efficiency and suitability of keyboard layouts
- The Windows keyboard layout is listed under Romanian (Moldova) due to system limitations (i.e., there is no Rohingya option in the language field of Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, so I just went with a completely unrelated language whose name also happens to begin with "Ro," with apologies to both language communities)
- You have to change a random obscure setting to get the layout to show up in Windows 10 (this is detailed in the INSTALL file)
- Should retired/variant glyphs be included in the keyboard? Pandey's proposed Unicode block includes several characters that are stylistic variants or no longer used
- Danger of appearing to promote one script over the other
- Should vowel signs be more accessible? Although they are not considered full letters, they are obligatory, unlike in Arabic
Mahmood, Syed S., Emily Wroe, Arlan Fuller, & Jennifer Leaning. 2017. The Rohingya people of Myanmar: Health, human rights, and identity. Lancet 389: 1841-1850. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Pandey, Anshuman. 2016. Revised proposal to include Hanifi Rohingya in Unicode. Unicode Technical Committee Document Registry. https://www.unicode.org/L2/L2016/16311r-hanifi-rohingya.pdf.
Translators without Borders. 2017. Rohingya Zuban: A Translators without Borders rapid assessment of language barriers in the Cox's Bazar refugee response. https://translatorswithoutborders.org/rohingya-zuban/ (6 Feb., 2018.)