The establishment of Chinese mobile phone assemblies in Africa has opened a new opportunity for some of the continent’s languages such as Afan Oromo, Kiswahili, Amharic, Somali, and Tigrigna. Due to the assemblies these languages began to be used as alternatives in mobile phones settings. The fact that the languages have gotten attention in mobile phone technology is a golden opportunity for their development. However, their poor qualities in the new technology pose challenges. This study which was undertaken in 2015 in Ethiopia aimed at investigating the challenges and prospects of two selected mobile phones namely: TECHNO and by2. The study utilized primary data collected from the selected mobile phones, their producers, and their users. Open-ended questionnaire and structured interviews were used to collect data from users of the mobile phones, mobile phone testing Engineers and managers of the mobile phone assemblies. As the study showed, the selected mobile phones have linguistic problems such as using unfamiliar or meaningless terms, unnecessary word borrowing, language mixing, misspellings, and mistranslations. Users are glad to see their language in the new technology but they are dissatisfied with its poor provision though. On the contrary, it was found out that the demand for the mobile phones has been increasing from time to time. The sources of the linguistic problems include lack of training for language experts working in the mobile assemblies, the companies’ reluctance to assess customers’ satisfaction, and lack of link between the mobile phone companies and academic or research institutions. Therefore, we believe that maintaining the quality of the language benefits both the companies and the users.
Keywords: Chinese mobile phone, African languages, Afan Oromo, language technology, computational linguistics, TCHNO mobile, by2, Ethiopia