Learning Igbo in a Fun Way!
October 5, 2010
Technology gives us the tools to overcome real obstacles in our daily lives. Here is one story of how technology brings learning a new language to our fingertips.
If you or your child could learn how to read and write a Nigerian language in as little as a few weeks without ever having to step foot into a classroom or commit hours each week to study, would you do it? Until now this question was largely rhetorical. We lead busy lives. Basic African language classes are hard to find. Even when available, these classes cost more than we are willing to spend and require more time and effort than we are willing to give to achieve our desired result.
Fortunately, with the advancement of mobile phones, we now possess the means to learn new languages with ease and with few of the barriers mentioned above. Many of us carry cell phones that are capable of much more than making and receiving phone calls. We carry them with us when we take a walk in the park or wait for family or friends. We take them to school, appointments or work. And we take them with us on the bus, train or plane.
We at UnatezeSoft LLC have developed a tonal language application called iSabi™ Igbo. The shear compute power and portability of modern mobile phones made this possible. The application was released on July 8, 2010, on Apple iTunes App Store for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. You can download it from the App Store here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/isabi-igbo/id380234686?mt=8. The response by those who have used this application has been astounding.
Even if you already are taking a formal Igbo language course, this application helps you to reinforce your learning with practice drills and game quizzes.
How iSabi™ Igbo Works
The application lays the foundation for studying standard Igbo on your own time. It is designed to teach the correct pronunciations and syntax for the alphabet, words and basic expressions. The entire program is at your fingertips anywhere and anytime:
- Traveling by car, bus, train or plane?
- Waiting for a friend to show up?
- At work, the library, doctor’s office, bar, restaurant or hotel?
- Waiting in line at the post office, bank or museum?
These and other situations present many opportunities for you to open the application and to spend your downtime listening to and practicing the language. Make the most of these spare moments enhancing your knowledge of the Igbo language. You can also share this application with members of your family simply by passing around the phone for short periods of time.
For Language Enthusiasts Everywhere
The iSabi™ Igbo application uses flashcards, word lists, expression lists and your selected study lists to enhance your learning. The application pronounces each word or expression when selected, allowing you to perform listening drills to master the language. There are game quizzes throughout the application. More instructions on how to use the application are available on our website at the following link: http://www.unatezesoft.com/support.html.
For You and Your Children
Many immigrants are well aware of the numerous challenges they face when raising children in Diaspora. One such challenge is the difficulty of fully sharing one’s mother tongue with children while in Diaspora. While it is possible to expose the children to their parents’ mother tongue at home, especially in families where both parents speak the same native tongue, it is unlikely that the children will experience the language in the same way that they would have if they had grown up in their parents’ country of birth. These children are exposed to a very limited set of vocabulary. They most likely are unable to read and write any of these languages or dialects. The limited exposure of the children to their parents’ native tongue can limit the children’s interaction with grandparents and other relatives in the motherland.
iSabi™ Igbo can be a very useful tool for you and your family in many of these situations. The application can help your children to learn Igbo while enhancing your knowledge of the language at the same time. The application allows you and your children to build on your existing Igbo vocabulary while learning how to read and write many new Igbo words and expressions. The games and quizzes can be a fun way for families to participate in the learning process while building their vocabulary.
For Readers and Journalists
Many popular literature and works of arts have Igbo words, names and expressions. For example, Chinua Achebe’s classic novel, Things Fall Apart, a book that is widely read across the globe and has been translated to hundreds of languages, has an extensive list of Igbo words. iSabi™ Igbo enables you to hear how these Igbo words are pronounced. Names that appear extensively in the book, such as Okonkwo, Nwakibie and Mbaino, are pronounced by a native Igbo speaker’s voice at the press of a button.
There are many Igbo named athletes who are recruited at the amateur or professional levels. Often, these names — especially those that have combination letter alphabet, such as gb, gw or nw —prove quite challenging for non-native speaking journalists and sportscasters. This point was driven home to me recently when I traveled to Portland, Oregon. As I was watching a National Basketball Association (NBA) Summer League game on television between my beloved Portland Trailblazers and the Houston Rockets, the commentators kept mentioning a certain Mr. “Eekie-nay I. B. Quay,” a Nigerian athlete who was giving a phenomenal performance. After several minutes of listening to this player’s name pronounced Mr. “I. B. Quay,” my curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to see how the athlete’s name was spelled. I looked up the Blazers’ Summer League roster on the Internet and discovered that, not too surprisingly, the commentators were struggling to pronounce “Ekene Ibekwe.” They had butchered badly the pronunciation of Mr. Ibekwe’s name.
Starting with the initial release of iSabi™ Igbo, the application provides a very useful tool for journalists. The application contains the key to pronouncing Igbo words and the alphabet. The correct pronunciation for all 36 letters of the Igbo alphabet is provided. The pronunciation for hundreds of common Igbo names is included and can be heard by pressing a given name from the application menu. The correct pronunciation for many amateur and professional athletes with Igbo names are included as well. In as few as two or three minutes, newscasters and sports commentators can discover the correct pronunciation for any Igbo-named athlete.
For Those Traveling to Nigeria for Business or Pleasure
iSabi™ Igbo can serve as a reference guide for travelers to Nigeria who wish to learn the basics of the Igbo language. A list of handy words and phrases is provided along with a list of words for many practical situations. Common words and expressions for greetings, meeting people, pronouns, food, home, travel, etc., are organized for quick reference.
We continue to enhance iSabi™ Igbo. We are planning to release a version of the application for the Windows Phone, Android and other mobile phone platforms. Also, we are working with Dr. Ejike Eze and others to develop intermediate and advanced Igbo language applications.
We wish to thank Dr. Ejike Eze for allowing us to use word examples for each of the Igbo alphabet from his Uwandiigbo Lesson 1. You may view the link here: http://uwandiigbo.com/Lessons/lesson1.html.
In a very real way, this application has achieved much of what we hoped to accomplish. Those who have used the application thus far have reported that they found it quite easy and fun to use. The game quiz parts of the application are very popular. We will continue to improve the application, and we will expand the list of Igbo words and expressions over time. Our first application update (version 1.001) enabled iSabi™ Igbo for iPhone 4.0 and iPad. As we make changes, free updates will be available to those who purchased the application.
Thank you for letting iSabi™ Igbo help you with your Igbo language studies. We appreciate feedback from our customers. Please give us any thoughts you might have on how the application can be improved by filling out the feedback and suggestions form here: http://www.unatezesoft.com/contact-us/. Thanks!