The notion of Africa’s oral tradition is relatively well-known, however, as one can imagine, those stories have mostly been confined to the continent itself. Alongside these stories are the unique languages used to tell them – languages which are some of the most diverse to be found on the planet.
Still, just like the stories containing years of experience and culture, these languages have also been largely ignored. The Izesan! app aims to change that by bringing to light languages such as Igbo, isiXhosa, Hausa, Twi, Yoruba, Fulfulde, and Swahili. These languages are stories within themselves, and by allowing more people to engage with them, the app is able to bring about new cultural awareness.
What is Izesan!?
Izesan! is a one of a kind app that allows users to learn numerous African languages through short, illustrated lessons; exercises; lyric music videos; and online tutors.
The curriculum is always being updated so that users experience African cultures to the maximum, and so that learning never becomes stagnant or boring. Instead, users are able to study over 300 courses for 13 African languages in a fun and interactive platform.
The online language-learning app is comparable to RosettaStone, Babbel, DuoLingo, and iTalki, but is unique in its focus on African languages – as well as the inclusion of cultural exploration in order to facilitate learning.
According to Anthony Otaigbe, founder of Izesan!, “Izesan! grew from my desire to see African languages brought to the world stage so that others could see what I see in them – languages which represent distinct cultures, unique people, and a wealth of knowledge.”
How Izesan! uses African folklore to engage students
There is no surer way to gain someone’s attention than by telling them a compelling story – a story with meaning and depth; one which they will always want to re-tell. The Izesan! App contains audiobooks of African folklore and traditional stories which will not only teach students the proper pronunciation, accent and tones of languages, but also allow them to meaningfully engage with the culture.
The importance of folklore and oral traditions have been highlighted by historians as not only relaying significant historical occurrences, but also a society’s worldview – the messages they share with each other, and the meaning they ascribe to people, places, and events.
By listening to these stories, users will feel connected to the language they are learning in a new and significant way. Languages offer unique insight into culture by hinting at what is important to them, how they think about the world, and how they communicate with others.
Further Izesan! Developments
As a response to Africa’s love of gaming, Izesanland! was developed. The multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) game allows players to explore numerous villages and quests – many of which have different ethnicities and languages. This fun game will not only be engaging to gamers, but also to anyone interested in engaging with African languages and cultures.
In another effort to create an environment where African languages and cultures will be allowed to flourish, Uwa was created. Similar to Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse, Uwa is an online space where Africans at home and abroad can chat about current affairs and any other shared topics.
However, this does not mean that anyone else interested in African languages and cultures cannot take part. In fact, the audio translation feature ensures that everyone is given leave to speak, and to listen.
In line with this, Izesan! is also developing Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to translate between African languages, and between African languages and English. This use of technology to help propagate the popularity and accessibility of African languages will no doubt have an immense impact on the success of Izesan! and other projects which will no doubt follow in its wake.
Even though the awareness and global appreciation of African languages has seen a significant decline, Izesan! hopes to remedy these unfortunate circumstances by ensuring that African languages and cultures are not restricted to the African continent, but rather have the opportunity to be appreciated worldwide.
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