News | 28.05.2010

Interactive language software helps schoolchildren discover South Africa’s official languages

The University of South Africa (UNISA) has been encouraging people to learn and speak one of South Africa’s eleven official languages during the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. THRASS UK have answered that call with an interactive language programme that gives schoolchildren worldwide the opportunity to learn about the host nation’s languages, culture and history.

THRASS (Teaching Handwriting Reading and Spelling Skills) UK has produced material in all official South African languages: Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga. The system comprises printable Calendar Charts which can also be used in conjunction with interactive whiteboards. The charts cover the basics such as numbers, days of the week and colours etc, along with ‘the dental, lateral and alveolar click sounds present in some of the languages*’. It’s easy to see how these charts are so popular with children as it is children’s voices which have been used to provide the pronunciation guides heard when clicking on the charts. THRASS also provides free software called the Phoneme Machine where video clips of moving lips are used to show the correct pronunciation of the language system’s phonemes.

But South Africa’s linguistic diversity has also been embraced outside of the classroom. When the official match ball was presented to the world, it was announced that the ball’s eleven-colour design symbolises Africa’s eleven official languages (not forgetting the eleven players in a team!) and according to a FIFA press release, the ball’s name ‘Jabulani’ means ‘to celebrate’ in the isiZulu language.

Telecommunications firms will also be expanding their coverage, with SABC (South Africa Broadcasting Corporation) providing both TV and radio broadcasts in all official languages, whilst Yahoo!’s multilingual services for PC and mobile platforms cover 13 different languages.

When the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ kicks off in June, there can be no denying the important role that languages will play in successfully bringing the event to a global audience.


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