Sumi Soni in the Sunday Times (S. Africa) 

Look who’s making isiZulu as easy as ABC 
22 April 2007
Taschica Pillay

A Durban Indian teacher is making isiZulu fun to learn in primary school.


Sumi Soni, 44, who has a master’s degree in isiZulu, has written a series of textbooks and teaching guides for grades two to seven.


Soni’s series, titled Maye Babo! — a Zulu exclamation meaning “Good Heavens!” — uses dialogue and songs to promote the learning of the language.


Grade two and three books were launched by the Education Department this year, and books for higher grades are being printed for next year.


Soni said she related the content of her books to topics pupils were studying in the school curriculum.


She said the books, which contained the repetition of words in songs, were so simple that anyone would be able to use them to learn and teach.


“It’s repeated activity, but it’s done with joy while learning, which is so much more effective.

Learning the lingo: Sumi Soni teaches isiZulu to her Grade 4 class at Berea Primary School using books she compiled herself.

Picture: Jackie Clausen


“All the songs are age-appropriate to tunes such as Baa Baa Black Sheep and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for the younger kids.


“You want children to learn the language from an early age and in an informal manner, because it’s easier for them to grasp and remember the words.”


She said before the books were edited, she tested the content among different grades and sought feedback from fellow teachers.


“The actual material in the books is my work, but it was eventually put together with the help of mother-tongue speakers, who assisted in the editing and translation.”


Soni, who has been teaching for 21 years, was a graduate of the former University of Durban-Westville and was one of the non-Zulu first- language speakers to obtain a qualification in the teaching of the language.


From Editor:

We are preparing a profile of Sumi Soni and will be posted in our Prominent Pattni profile section soon