Language learning app takes international isiZulu

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Nal’ibali, the South African Reading for Pleasure campaign, has partnered with international language learning app Duolingo to offer people around the world the chance to learn isiZulu for free.

Nal’ibali (isiXhosa for ‘this is the story’) is known for his advocacy of the use of South African languages ​​in literacy.

The campaign aims to address literacy issues in SA by helping adults and children fall in love with reading and listening to stories in their native language.

Since its inception in 2012, Nal’ibali has partnered with many stakeholders to maximize its impact. Now in its 10th year, the campaign has extended its reach beyond South Africa’s borders.

Nal’ibali says its latest collaboration with international language learning platform Duolingo will provide nearly 50 million monthly active language learners around the world with the opportunity to learn isiZulu at no cost.

Part of Nal’ibali’s goal is to “promote the importance of previously marginalized African languages, and the Duolingo platform is a great opportunity to do so. We want more attention to be given to African languages, which will help protect and promote the literacy value chain in South Africa,” said Nal’ibali Director, Nqabakazi Mathe-Gina.

Last week, Duolingo announced the launch of the isiZulu Beginners course for English speakers at its annual virtual conference, Duocon 2022.

Duolingo lets users discover patterns on their own without having to focus on the rules of the language, using “implicit learning” to build a solid foundational knowledge.

Through the use of machine learning algorithms, the app offers a total of 103 language lessons for over 40 distinct languages, ranging from the five most widely spoken languages ​​in the world to lesser-known and endangered languages.

Duolingo will create additional access for learners – locally and around the world – to learn to speak isiZulu through its mobile app and website.

“At Duolingo, our mission is to develop the best education in the world and make it universally available,” says Emily Moline, Senior Program Designer at Duolingo.

“We are proud to partner with Nal’ibali, an organization also dedicated to improving access to education, to launch this course and help teach isiZulu in a fun and engaging way.

“Adding isiZulu is part of our efforts to raise awareness and expose lesser-known languages ​​to a wider audience.”

According to Duolingo, IsiZulu is spoken by over 12 million people, making it the most spoken African language in South Africa.

The Duolingo isiZulu course will introduce learners to the click sounds of the language and familiarize new speakers with isiZulu’s many noun classes.

As part of the launch of the isiZulu course, Duolingo has partnered with Vodacom, which will provide free access to the Duolingo platform to Vodacom users for one year.

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