The app that speaks South African

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Cape Town - Inspired by his vision of communicating with all South Africans, Glenn Stein has created an app that provides translations between the nation’s 11 official languages. The app has been recognised by the World Design Capital (WDC).

“We’re taking part in a global inner-South African conversation,” the 24-year-old said.

“It’s one nation, let’s speak to each other, let’s speak to each other in all languages.”

The free app, Aweza, was made available for Android phones on Thursday before Mother Tongue Language Day on Friday.

The app provides users with 18 conversation topics, including “socialising”, “directions”, “health”, “greetings” and “emergency”. The app then lists common phrases within the topic, ranging from “Is this table taken?” to “Help me, I need the police”. Users select the language they need to speak and it provides a readable translation.

“It’s basically trying to find a new way of leveraging mobile technology to get South African people engaging with other cultures,” Stein said.

An audio component is also incorporated that serves the purpose of specifically improving linguistic skill.

Users record a phrase in the language they want to learn, which is submitted to a universal database that other Aweza users rate on pronunciation.

In order to give people the best chance to learn the languages, Stein is focused on getting as many people to submit recordings to the database as possible. He noticed a significant spread of awareness when WDC recognised the app as a “Bridging the Divide” project.

“I understood the importance of how (knowing a language) can completely help you break through cultural barriers,” he said. Once you know how to communicate with somebody in their language, it can really change your life.” - Cape Times

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