is an open educational resource and online dictionary for isiXhosa and English. This student-led project at the University of Cape Town aims to create a free, open source and easily usable dictionary for learners of the isiXhosa language.

The initiative was first established as a hobby and passion project by the project team in 2021 because they felt that none of the existing isiXhosa-English dictionaries came close enough to fulfilling their vision of a free, open, community-driven and easily-usable isiXhosa-English dictionary. 

Students studying isiXhosa must generally choose between a high-quality, professional dictionary like the Oxford English Xhosa Dictionary or the Greater Dictionary of isiXhosa, or a lower-quality, machine-generated dictionary like Glosbe. Both of these options have limitations, in that the former has all rights reserved and cannot be easily accessed or carried around as they are in print form; while the latter often has dubious or untrustworthy translations, as much of the content is machine-generated from parallel corpuses. The print editions are also prohibitively expensive and hard to get a hold of; the only way that most students will be able to use one is by borrowing a copy from a teacher or library. 

The online dictionary has grown to provide translations of 1 490 words, which are curated and stored in a structured fashion so that the database can be easily adapted for different purposes – such as generating (Anki) flashcards of English and isiXhosa words, which has proved very helpful to students in helping to expand vocabulary. There are also 1 372 example sentences provided. 

Another feature of the dictionary is that it has a collection of more than 300 medical terms integrated from third-party sources. Students and other interested users can submit words for translation, or assist in contributing translations to the dictionary.

The source code for the online dictionary is available from its GitHub repository. The database of words, examples and linked words is also available on GitHub in order to facilitate reuse. All content in the database is licensed under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution ShareAlike licence, while the software is licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License Version 3.

The project team is comprised of:

  • William Moultrie, a second-year BSocSci student studying politics, philosophy and economics.
  • Cael Marquard, a second-year BSC student with majors in isiXhosa communication and computer science.
  • Jacob Lund, a second-year BSc student in maths, physics and isiXhosa.
  • Luvo Gcingca, a Master’s student researching semantic shift in isiXhosa.

William, Cael and Jacob are all English-speaking and graduated with isiXhosa as matric subjects, whilst Luvo is a first-language isiXhosa speaker. The team works with the lecturer of the isiXhosa Communication course, Dr Tessa Dowling, who provides feedback and undertakes a level of quality assurance in correcting errors.

The team recently obtained a grant from the North-West University Digital Humanities Open Educational Resource Champions Initiative in order to further develop the resource.

[Project logo by Jaydon Walters, CC BY-SA]