In a recent episode of ALATT podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking with Michael Odokara-Okigbo, the CEO of Nkenne, a groundbreaking African language learning app. During the interview, he shared his insights on the intersection of language learning and technology, the unique features of Nkenne, and the impact the app has had on users.
Nkenne, which means “of the mother” in the Igbo language, is a community-based platform that allows users to learn, practice, and connect with others in African languages.
Michael’s passion for African languages, stemming from his Nigerian heritage, inspired him to create Nkenne as a way to connect people with their native languages and cultures. The inspiration for Nkenne came from his own experience of not learning his native language, Igbo, while growing up in the United States.
This realisation led him to create a platform that not only helps individuals reconnect with their roots but also honours the significance of African languages as the oldest spoken languages in humanity.
One of the key features that sets Nkenne apart is its focus solely on African languages.
The app offers a unique learning experience by providing access to languages such as Nigerian Pidgin English, Somali, Swahili, Igbo, Yoruba and Twi which is a distinctive offering not found in many language learning platforms. Michael emphasised that Nkenne’s goal is to make learning African languages fun and accessible, and the positive feedback from users, including those outside of Africa, reflects the app’s great impact.
During our conversation, Michael also highlighted the challenges faced during the app’s development, particularly in ensuring the security and satisfaction of users. However, with a dedicated team and a strong belief in their mission, Nkenne has continued to evolve and thrive.
Looking ahead, Nkenne’s future plans include expanding its language offerings, enhancing community features, and further gamifying the learning experience. He expressed his commitment to continuously improving the platform to meet the needs of its users and to ensure that Nkenne remains a leading resource for African language learning.
In addition to his work with Nkenne, Michael is an accomplished musician and an American Music Award winner. His dedication to Nkenne as a legacy project demonstrates his unwavering commitment to preserving and promoting African languages.
The interview also featured Shalom Odokara, Michael’s mother and co-founder of Nkenne, who shared her perspective on the importance of the app in reconnecting people with their mother tongues. She emphasised the significance of Nkenne’s mission and the impact it has in reclaiming and celebrating African languages.
As the conversation drew to a close, Michael expressed his gratitude for the support and partnerships that have contributed to Nkenne’s success, including collaborations with Google and the U.S. government. He also extended an invitation for further collaboration and support to continue promoting Nkenne and its mission.
In conclusion, Nkenne stands as a testament to the power of technology in preserving cultural heritage and fostering connections through language. Michael’s dedication to this endeavour, along with the support of his team and partners, reflects a commitment to empowering individuals to embrace and celebrate their African linguistic heritage.
The journey of Nkenne serves as an inspiration for language preservation and cultural appreciation, and it is poised to make a lasting impact in the realm of African language learning.