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University of KwaZulu-Natal launches two books and innovative isiZulu language technologies

The University Language Planning and Development Office (ULPDO) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), which is headed by Director Dr Langa Khumalo, recently launched two books and human language technologies. The technologies, which aim to help isiZulu students and end-users, are part of the University’s commitment to develop isiZulu as an academic language.



Dr Langa Khumalo, ULPDO Director at UKZN and Oxford isiZulu living dictionary Language Champion.


The technologies launched include the following:


isiZulu National Corpus

One of the biggest African language corpora in the world, with just over 20 million running words that are reflective of the language. With this resource anyone around the world will have access to study isiZulu as a language in all its complexities.


isiZulu Term Bank

The isiZulu Term Bank is a resource that was developed in order to provide access to isiZulu terminology which has been developed for a variety of disciplines such as anatomy, architecture, accounting, biodiversity, economics, law, nursing, physics etc. The resource is a work-in-progress with other disciplines set to be added. 

The isiZulu term bank is available as an open source resource on https://ukzntermbank.ukzn.ac.za.


isiZulu Spellchecker

The spellchecker is a useful resource in language editing. Using the isiZulu national corpus as a basis for training the spellchecker, this tool will complement the university effort in teaching the isiZulu modules and assist book and newspaper editors in editing their texts written in isiZulu. The spellchecker boasts a 90% recognition rate, and is also an open resource downloadable from the ULPDO website http://ulpdo.ukzn.ac.za.


Zulu Lexicon: A Mobile-Compatible Application (Android and iPhone)

This is a mobile application of the isiZulu Term Bank. It is available free, and its development is to enhance end-user access to various multidisciplinary terminology. ULPDO has introduced the notion of ANYTIME ACCESS so that students and other general users can access the terms anytime they need to. ULPDO has thus exploited technology to develop improved end-user access through the development of this mobile compatible application. This application is called the Zulu Lexicon App, which is short for isiZulu Lexicon. It affords students and other users anytime access to all the authenticated (multidisciplinary) terminology, with search functions in both English and isiZulu.


In addition, the following two isiZulu publications (both published by the UKZN Press) were launched as part of the major effort to cultivate isiZulu as an academic language:


A short stories volume in isiZulu which is a culmination of a literature competition


The short stories anthology is a compilation of the literary genius of both the budding and experienced writers in isiZulu. It is a product of a literature competition initiated by the University Language Board and run by ULPDO, which seeks to promote the use of isiZulu writing through reflecting on both the historical and contemporary issues in the ever evolving culture of the Zulu people. 

The ULPDO received about 110 entries from isiZulu authors across the country. An adjudication team made up of academics, authors and prominent media personalities evaluated the entries in order to come up with the best short stories worthy of publishing. The twenty stories published in this anthology thus reflect on the creative experiences of the Zulu people.


An English-isiZulu Architecture glossary with illustrations


The ULPDO is also developing bilingual glossaries in various specialised disciplines. These bilingual glossaries are going to be serialised. The first publication in a series is a bilingual (English-isiZulu) glossary of architecture with illustration. The illustrations are a vital component of the discipline.  With this book now available the discipline of architecture can now be taught in isiZulu. The University Language Planning and Development Office is working hard to capacitate isiZulu as a language of teaching and learning through the provision of such enablers.



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