Review: uTalk Zulu iPad app PDF Print E-mail

The app is a useful, interactive tool that teaches all the basics of the Zulu language to non-speakers.

Teaching an old dog new tricks has never been an easy feat. The same can be said for mastering a new language at a later stage in life.

I have always considered learning a new language at my age a waste of time. The last time I meddled in languages was during my varsity days when one of the compulsory courses was Linguistics, so I either had to do it, or risk forfeiting my degree.

Nonetheless, I have always experienced those awkward moments when people try to communicate with me in certain languages they assume I can comprehend.

One such language is Zulu, one of SA’s official languages with about 10 million speakers. Deep down, I somehow have this feeling that this is one language I should at least be able to understand to avoid the embarrassment I am usually faced with, especially in public areas when people try to speak to me.

The iPad’s uTalk Zulu app, which is available for $9.99 from the Apple App Store, seems to have come to my rescue. Once installed, the app does not require an Internet connection.

The latest update of the app – version 5.1.1 – is designed for both the iPhone and the iPad.
Thanks to the Zulu app, I have now learnt about the beauty of the language. According to Wikipedia, Zulu is the second most widely spoken Bantu language after Shona. Like many other Bantu languages, it is written using the Latin alphabet.
The Zulu app takes learners back to kindergarten. It starts with the Word Practice exercise, which includes basic words and phrases like ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘good morning’, ‘thank you’, ‘beer’, ‘goodbye’, ‘please’, ‘ladies’ toilet’, and so on. These words appear in a list, and when a learner clicks on any of them, a clear voice translates the word into Zulu using clear pronunciation.
For instance, the words listed above are translated into ‘yebo’, ‘chabo’, ‘sawubona’, ‘ngiyabonga’, ‘ibhiye’, ‘salakahle noma hamba kahle’, ‘ngiyacela’, and ‘ithoyilethe labesimame’, respectively. Further, the app also provides the proper spellings of the words and expressions.
Mixing learning and fun, the Word Practice exercise also features an easy game that displays four different items on the screen and calls out the names. The items are then shuffled and their names called out. The learner is expected to click on the correct item as its name is read. Marks are rewarded in this game.
Normally, an easy game is accompanied by a harder one, which is the case with Word Practice. The hard game shows two images on the screen and calls out the names. A few seconds later, these images are turned facedown and the learner is asked to identify what’s underneath. Memorisation is the trick here.
After Word Practice comes the Food stage, featuring lists of delicacies and utensils. Among them are fork, spoon, plate, bread and sweetcorn. These words are also translated in an interactive manner. The stage also has easy and hard games, as with the previous stage.
Other stages include colours, phrases, body, numbers, time, shopping and countries, which follow the same procedures as the above stages.
The phrases stage proved to be the most useful, as it teaches sentence construction, as well. For instance, it highlights phrases like ‘how much is this?’, ‘I don’t understand’, ‘where’s the shop?’, ‘I don’t smoke’, ‘I need a doctor’, and ‘help!’, among others. These can be translated as ‘kubiza imalini lokhu’, ‘angizwa’, ‘sikhupi isitolo’, ‘angibhemi’, ‘ngidinga udokotela’ and ‘nceda okanye siza’, respectively.
After completing all stages, learners are given certificates and they may even win medals.
In a nutshell, the uTalk Zulu iPad app is quite useful in that it is interactive and it teaches all the basics of the Zulu language to a non-speaker.
Good: Interactive app.
Bad: Does not go beyond basic Zulu phrases.
Rating: 8/10
Price: $9.99 from the Apple App Store
Link: Download from iTunes.

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