I first discovered uTalk because it was one of the very very very few big language apps that included Tigrinya. I almost fell off my chair. Google Translate still doesn’t have Tigrinya, although they have Western Frisian (?!). So I was very impressed with uTalk from the start, even before downloading it and diving into their resources.
You can choose from different game/memory/matching options to learn the words as audio recordings from native speakers help you out. You can record your own voice to see how it measures up to the examples given, and the visuals are memorable, colourful and clear. They included Tigrinya fidel script and English phonetic translations. It was like finding an oasis in a desert, because most language apps (ok, most people) are usually like: What is a Tigrinya?
So when Sisters Only Language Summit was born last year, and we started considering who we wanted to partner with (especially with African language taster sessions being on the menu for the second event), uTalk was at the top of that list.
uTalk spans over 140 languages. More than 1000 native speakers have been recorded in the making of the app. They’ve crossed deserts and climbed mountains to gather all this great material, and throughout have demonstrated how they value minority and endangered languages, as well as all the major languages people would like to get onto their CV.
You can tell that community means a lot to uTalk, so we didn’t really have to explain much in terms of what we were trying to do with Sisters Only Language Summit. They just got it. Their network of partners and collaborators is vast. uTalk is connected to all manner of organisations, representing a wide range of communities and languages from Ladino to Manx, Southern Sami to Esperanto. In the days when travel was more of a thing, you could even access uTalk on EasyJet to prep a bit so you could chat in a new language on your city trip. Ah, those were the days..
Yet even now that travel is restricted, uTalk helps you feel connected to worlds that are worlds away from your own. I’ve heard that one of their upcoming additions is Kirundi! Nestled between Rwanda, Tanzania, Lake Tanganyika and DRC, Burundi is a beautiful country famed for majestic drumming and mystical levels of wonderful coffee (and that is coming from a bonafide coffee snob). Burundian coffee is a blog post on its own. The perfect accompaniment to a Kirundi study session on uTalk, if you ask me.
All that to say– we appreciated uTalk pre– the Sisters Only Language Summit, for the attention and care that they lavish equally on all languages. We now have doubled that appreciation, since they have shown consistent encouragement and support from when we first reached out. So if you are looking for an expansive, inclusive language app to explore, we can highly recommend our friends over at uTalk!