What is it?

isiZulu.net is a hobby project consisting of a Zulu/English online dictionary and a forum where everyone (i.e. you!) can contribute and help building up a com­pre­hen­sive modern Zulu vocabulary.

What is it not?

It is not a full text translator or a Babelfish. However, it tries to translate simple phrases, compound Zulu words, and other cool stuff (see usage page). In fact, more than half of the code deals with regular expression based machine translation (aka computational linguistics, to use a buzzword), while a small part also does rule-based translations.

Why is it?

The dictionary began as an idée fixe after a visit to South Africa in 2003 when I decided to learn Zulu. Curiously there were no Zulu classes up here in Germany, so I bought some books from "teach yourself" and African Voices and Doke's dusty thick tome.

Seeing there was no real Zulu online dictionary around, only some word lists and dumb web front ends, I decided to create one of my own. It should have a real database, some halfway clever code meeting the agglutinative nature of isiZulu, and a forum allowing users to contribute entries. The latter was an idea I borrowed from LEO.

As I wasn't too good at making up my own database schema, I soon found David Joffe had already done so for his dictionary software TshwaneLex. It was about as beta as my site at that time, so we started a mutual beta-testing and cross-referencing agreement.

African Voices kindly allowed me to use their course vocabulary as an initial stuffing for my database, and a couple of weeks later, isiZulu.net saw the light of day. It's happily online since June 6 2004, serving a few thousand lookups a day.

Who is it?

Just me, a bunch of regular expressions, and you folks on the forum.

What's inside?

Apache, Aspell, Perl, MySQL, Sereal, SQLite and some es­sen­tial­ly dis­pens­able Java­script.


Proudly made without PHP, Java, and Google.