UKZN Alumnus Compiles isiZulu-Chinese Textbook and Dictionary
Alumnus, Mr Mthuli Buthelezi, is currently working on the compilation of an isiZulu-Chinese textbook and dictionary for the Beijing Foreign Studies University.
The Chinese university has established a Zulu programme aimed at enabling students in that country to learn the South African language, strengthening ties between the two countries.
‘IsiZulu has relatively less readily available text materials for teaching and learning. The establishment of the first isiZulu-Chinese textbook and dictionary will add to the number of isiZulu reference books and this will in turn contribute to the development of isiZulu,’ explained Buthelezi.
The isiZulu textbook and dictionary are intended for Chinese students who are learning isiZulu as an additional language. Both books can also be used by isiZulu speaking students who are learning Chinese.
The textbook includes sections on grammar and vocabulary as well as texts. The texts appear in narrative and dialogue formats. The vocabulary section is a wordlist that shows the lexical categorisation, the noun classes and the definition of words.
‘The texts are written in relatively “simpler language” and are a reflection of the grammar points of each unit of the textbook. Using wordsmith tools, the isiZulu corpushas been drawn upon to elicit collocation and the meaning of some words,’ said Buthelezi.
The dictionary is written in isiZulu, English and Mandarin. IsiZulu words and their definitions appear with their direct Chinese translation equivalents. It represents a retrieval of words from existing isiZulu dictionaries.
According to Buthelezi, most isiZulu dictionaries are archaic. ‘Where appropriate, the isiZulu words and their definitions have been updated in order to yield to contemporary isiZulu vocabulary. The isiZulu-Chinese dictionary is primarily characterised by the inclusion of contemporary words and contemporary definitions. For some words, the corpus has been used to elicit their meanings and thus draw upon their definitions. Along with definitions, the words are classified in terms of lexical category, number, and noun class,’ he said.
Buthelezi considers the development of isiZulu in China as a watershed moment. ‘This development is the preservation of the language and also strengthens diplomatic relations. Communication and exchange of language are communication and exchange of both culture and education. Exchange of language will not only spawn the expansion of isiZulu, but will also foster healthy relations between China and South Africa,’ he said.
Words and photograph: Melissa Mungroo