How to Learn Zulu


Zulu is the language spoken by the largest ethnic group in South Africa, who live near the province of KwaZulu-natal. Approximately 10 to 11 million people currently speak the language in this area. Other Zulu speakers live in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique. The Zulu language has its linguistic roots as a Bantu language and is part of the Nguni group of languages. The Zulu people of South Africa suffered great discrimination under Apartheid rule, but today businesses, health care professionals, missionaries, and other social service workers in the country learn the language.

Things You'll Need

  • Dictionary
  • Audio tapes
  • CD programs
  • DVDs
  • Magazines
  • Language books
  • Purchase CDs, DVDs or audio tapes that provide frequent access to Zulu. Good pronunciation is a product of listening to the language spoken well and often. Look for programs that use real-life situations and contexts similar to the places you intend to communicate.

  • Keep a vocabulary learning journal and write words and meanings of words you hear and understand as you listen to the audio sources. Treat each word like a golden nugget that makes you linguistically richer. Listen actively and repeat the words.

  • Search for Zulu radio stations online and write new vocabulary you learn from them. Listen to and sing along with songs from Ladysmith Black Mambazo on YouTube.

  • Invest in a beginning level conversational textbook or other reading material. You can also subscribe to magazines that are educational and written for children. They contain Zulu language and important facts about the culture. If you are in a health profession select text that explains the human body, diseases and prevention. Obtain trade magazines, travel magazines, shopping catalogs, newspapers or visit websites. You will acquire the language much faster by reading simple illustrated texts about subjects that you know well.

  • Search for a tutor. In larger metropolitan cities it may be possible to find a native speaker of the language to tutor you. Put an ad in Craigslist or in a newspaper. Craigslist operates in South Africa, so you can locate a pen pal to exchange e-mails.

    Contact local universities and check for departments of African studies or linguistics.

  • If you find a tutor, invite your tutor out to do day-to-day activities. Go to a restaurant and order a meal. Go shopping at the mall and name items and talk about prices.

  • Contact local churches that may have missionaries in South Africa. Correspond in the Zulu language with missionaries in the country.

  • Practice "self-talk" in Zulu as you go through the day. Use your commute time to speak aloud in your new language. Focus on developing fluency in communication and let your accent develop over time.


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