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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 07:02 GMT 08:02 UK
Podcasting for Zimbabwe
By Joseph Winter
BBC News website

Anyone wishing to learn Zimbabwe's main language, Shona, now has a new option - the Shona podcast.

Si and Cecilia Brindley
Si and Cecilia - the Richard and Judy of Shona podcasting
A podcast is basically a radio show that can be downloaded over the internet and then listened to on a portable digital music player, such as an iPod or an MP3 player.

The British man behind the Shona podcast, Si Brindley, wanted to learn Shona because his wife, Cecilia, is Zimbabwean and he wanted to understand more about her culture.

"I liked the idea of podcasting and I wanted to get into it. But I didn't want to be just another person talking about nothing," he told the BBC News website.

So he is the guinea-pig learning Shona on behalf of anyone else who is interested.

Free-for-all

Mr Brindley says the show is not only the first podcast on Shona but the first about Zimbabwe.

However, they do not touch on politics because many of Cecilia's relatives are still in Zimbabwe and they do not want to risk angering the authorities.

I'm the technical geek and she wasn't sure. But just the other day, she was telling me how much she loves it now
Si Brindley
The great thing about podcasting is that, like the internet, it is open to anyone.

You don't need anything more sophisticated than a microphone, a computer and an internet connection - no need for a licence - and you can become a podcaster, with people listening to your shows across the world.

But this can also be a downside - people with limited talent, experience or training rambling on primarily for their own self-interest.

The Shona podcast is not professionally made but the unpolished sound is just what podcast fans are supposedly looking for.

And there are sound effects in addition to the speech. Mr Brindley says he spends about three hours editing the show, which they try to produce every week or so.

Frisson

Language teachers, however, will not be impressed at Mr Brindley's slow progress.

In a 17-minute podcast, Mr Brindley only learns the numbers 1-10 and the days of the week.

Plate of sadza
Si risked Cecilia's wrath by calling sadza 'cardboardy porridge'
In fact, he does his best to get out of actually learning Shona.

"I'm English, so I'll say the English words. You're Shona, so you do the Shona," he tells his unimpressed wife on the show.

When he does try and say some Shona words, he says the most difficult thing is the pronunciation of sounds which do not exist in English.

But he says this is why it is difficult to learn Shona from a book - you need to hear the spoken word to try and repeat it correctly.

Mr Brindley brushes off comparisons with the famous husband and wife double act on British television, Richard and Judy.

"Maybe we're the Richard and Judy of Shona podcasting," he says.

But there is a certain marital frisson when Mr Bindley risks his wife's wrath by calling Zimbabwe's staple food sadza "cardboardy porridge" on one show.

Still, he survived to tell the tale and she does actually admit that sadza, made from maize meal, does not have any taste.

Feedback

While Mr Brindley seems reluctant to learn Shona, he is very keen on podcasting.

He says he sets his computer to automatically download his 12 favourite podcasts overnight and listens to them on his iPod in the car.

Hopefully, there will be podcasts coming out of Zimbabwe one day
Si Brindley
And he has managed to convince his wife, Cecilia, of the benefits of podcasting.

"I'm the technical geek and she wasn't sure. But just the other day, she was telling me how much she loves it now," Mr Brindley says.

He says that he has been astonished at the amount of encouraging e-mails they have received.

"We might have given up, if it was not for the feedback," he says.

And more people are signing up. Downloads have gradually increased from 30 to 160 by the fifth and most recent show, he says.

Obviously, most have some interest in Zimbabwe - Zimbabweans or people who have been there - but some, he says, have just typed Zimbabwe into a search engine and stumbled across the podcast.

"Hopefully, there will be podcasts coming out of Zimbabwe one day," Mr Brindley says.

Internet connections can be slow in Zimbabwe but Mr Brindley says that does not make podcasting impossible, just much slower.

Maybe some of those Zimbabwean podcasts will touch on politics.

As with the internet, podcasting could prove to be an invaluable way for those people unhappy with the way Zimbabwe is going to both let off steam and inform the rest of the world.


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