The benefits of learning another language are well researched and documented.  It boosts brain power; improves memory, decision-making, problem solving and creativity; enables cultural understanding and bridging; generates overflow success in seemingly unrelated areas.  The list is long and impressive.

It’s just a bit difficult to remember these benefits when grinding through the reality of teaching/learning that new language!

As a Mom of three (now adult) daughters I have felt the pain.  I have been there, done that, worn out the t-shirt! At the peak of my pain I had two daughters in primary school, both learning two additional languages.  I have spent my share of hours (or rather days) calling out lists of words to learn – to spell – to guess the pronunciation – to build a usable vocabulary.  My girls have equally spent hours bending their brains, learning and groaning, trying again and again.

Building a new language happens with difficulty.  There isn’t an easy fix. You need a big, ever-growing body of words to draw on – to enable conversation, understanding, surprise, and curiosity.  Some family favourites are “hosepipe – tuinslang”, “meringue – skuimpie”, and “drug addict – dwelmslaaf”.

We know the problem, but what is the solution?  We could stick with the current solution.

  • We could expect teachers to magically pour words into learner’s brains in class.  Impossible. Classroom time is limited. Teachers need to focus on other fundamental concepts and rules which need to be explained and practiced.  
  • Teachers could send lists of words home.  Overstretched parents could do what I did.  Realistically though parents often aren’t available to call words for hours each week, and may battle with the pronunciation of these “foreign” languages.  
  • We could expect increasingly busy learners to be proactive and expose themselves to the language by watching TV, or reading magazines and books.  With enthusiasm. Between Maths and Tennis, Debating and Geography, TV and Science!

But this solution isn’t really working out for us.  To give language learning the time, effort and priority it deserves we need a fresh approach.  A little help from each other, and from technology. Something flexible and fun! What could be done to help teachers, parents and learners in one solution? Why not create a solution to help our learners to help themselves?

I am by profession a business and IT problem-solver.  So I created a solution in 2008 and called it Whuzoo – loosely abstracting the name from the concept of a “word zoo”!  It started off as an Excel-based, learner-driven vocabulary application but has since become a web application. Talented teachers, home-language speakers, my husband, our girls, IT wizards and I have spent hundreds of hours working closely with language teachers, structuring programmes, recording, testing and testing.  We have built an offering of over 20 first class programmes to help learners build their FAL vocabulary – independently, using technology.

The programmes are available for English-speaking learners learning Afrikaans, IsiZulu, Sepedi and Sesotho at a primary school level, with high school programmes being available for Afrikaans vocabulary and Afrikaans prescribed readers.  The programmes present words in logical themes (colours, numbers, my house, plurals, abbreviations, steps of comparison etc), provide pronunciation sound clips, and instantly mark spelling through a test function.

For best results, it is recommended that the relevant Whuzoo programme be a prescribed “book list” resource to enable the teacher and learners to have common resources, goals and expectations.   

The diagram above shows the simple, fun, focussed flow.  Please call Barbara on 0828778366 or visit www.whuzoo.co.za to find out how we can best work together to support your teachers, parents, and learners.  

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