ALRI, University of Zimbabwe; Harare, Zimbabwe
Photo by Jonathan M. Anderson
In March 2014, representatives from Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages held a workshop for the languages of Zimbabwe at ALRI, the African Languages Research Institute at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare, under the direction of Professor Dr. Emmanuel Chabata.

Language activists and linguists from seven language communities in Zimbabwe attended the workshop, during which participants built multi-media Talking Dictionaries and acquired various digital literacy and language documentation skills. They are all included as Zimbabwe Fellows on our Living Tongues Fellows page.

The languages of six of the communities taking part in the workshop belong to various sub-groups of the Bantu language family (Chikunda, Kalanga, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele and Shona) while the remaining language, the poorly documented Tshwao, belongs to the Eastern Kalahari Khoe subgroup of the Khoe or Central Khoisan language family.

Taking part in the workshop representing the Chikunda language community of Zimbabwe were Robert Chimbiti, Matthew Chapoto, Dorothy Mpande and Reggemore Marongedze. The team working on the critically endangered Tshwao language at the workshop included Ngcoli Sibanda–the youngest fluent speaker of the language at 67, Davy Ndlovu and Admire Phiri. Mthulisi Ncube, Nathaniel Ncube, and Pax Nkomo represented the Kalanga community at the workshop in Harare.

The Nambya language community of the Hwange region of Zimbabwe was represented at the workshop by Bengani Ncube, Tabona Nyoni and Pediatrice Sibanda. Emmanuel Sithole represented the Ndau language community, Ignatius T. Mabasa, the Shona language community and Banele Ndlovu and Christine Nyoni, the Ndebele language community. Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Wills represented ALRI/UZ and Dr. Gregory D. S. Anderson and Jonathan M. Anderson represented Living Tongues.

Participants in the workshop were instructed in two types of digital workflow in creating online multi-media Talking Dictionaries.  Each participant learned how to make and manipulate high-quality digital audio files, how to combine sound files with text and metadata files to create searchable online dictionaries in their languages.

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This is the first ever community-created online presence for several of these language communities, including Tshwao, which currently has only fifteen fluent speakers remaining. A reference resource for this important and critically endangered language is one the highest priorities for the immediate future with respect to the documentation of the minority languages of Zimbabwe.

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