Despite the vast number of African languages, there has been very little proliferation of speakers beyond Africa itself. In contrast to the numerous languages offered on various language learning apps, African languages have largely been relegated to the continent itself.
In order to provide a long-lasting solution to this social misfortune, Anthony Otaigbe developed the Izesan! language learning platform where African languages could be made available to the world at large so that the richness and diversity of African culture could be projected through technology.
This feat was not an easy one, but it was worthwhile. We chatted to Anthony Otaigbe, founder of the Otaigbe group, to hear about his journey and what he has planned for the future.
What inspired you to develop Izesan!?
“The past decade has shown a sharp decline in the awareness of African languages and culture. I found this unsettling as many consider African languages some of the most diverse in the world. I knew that I needed to find a way to change that, and to bring African languages back to the forefront of people’s mind, and to the global stage.”
What sets Izesan! apart from its competitors?
“Even though many of the features are comparable to that of Duolingo iTalki, and RosettaStone, to name a few, however, I wanted to incorporate African culture in a more significant way. So apart from the fact that Izesan! is the only with such a comprehensive collection of African languages to learn, the curriculum has also been specially designed to immerse learners in the cultures they are learning about. In order to do this, there is an audiobook feature which contains a considerable amount of entertaining folklore and traditional stories. In this way, students have the chance to experience a distinctive mix of entertainment and education while being exposed to the accents, pronunciations, and tones of African languages.
What will users find on the app?
“Users will have access to interactive lessons in Igbo, Swahili, Hausa, Fulfulde, Twi, and many more, as well as a dictionary and exercises to practice the languages. The curriculum is constantly updated so that students can be immersed in the culture, and learn about the lifestyle of the numerous countries in Africa. Through their languages, users will be able to explore Africa in a new and fun way, and without having to travel halfway across the world. In order to ascertain their progress, learners can also test their knowledge, and improve their communication skills through short and illustrated lessons, an array of native online tutors, and lyric music videos.”
You are a Certified Public Accountant. How did you move from the financial industry to language learning?
“I worked in the private and accounting industry for years, and I thoroughly enjoyed offering personalized services including tax preparation, attestation services, business consulting, and software service. However, in 2017, I recognized the deep need to bring Africa’s unique cultures and languages to the world. So, I began working on the language learning app for the Esan people of Nigeria and the diaspora in 2019. Yorùbá, Igbo, and Hausa languages were added to the platform in 2020. As of 2022, the platform offers over 300 courses in 12 African languages.”
You’ve got big plans for the app. What else can users look forward to?
“Gaming has become a way of life in Africa. So, we decided to develop a mobile game app, Izesanland!, where players have a variety of immersion options and get to learn about major languages and cultures in the African continent at the same time. We’re also working on launching Uwa, which is comparable to Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse. Africans at home and abroad will have the opportunity to discuss pertinent topics and issues related to Africa. We’re excited to say that we’re also developing machine learning and artificial intelligence that will be able to translate speech across different languages, such as English to Yoruba and vice-versa.”
The journey for the Izesan! language learning platform has not been easy in the least, however, Izesan! has managed to create an enabling environment for new language learners interested in African languages and cultures through exciting channels and fun activities.
If you’d like to learn more, take a look at their Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and LinkedIn.