Airbnb has just added isiZulu, isiXhosa and Kiswahili - here’s what gets translated and what stays in English.

Business Insider SA
  • Hosts and guests on Airbnb can now access the platform in isiXhosa, isiZulu and Kiswahili - for the first time.
  • South Africa has more than 20,000 listings on the platform and more than 2 million guests have stayed in Airbnb listed homes since 2008.
  • Changing your language is quite easy on a desktop, but doesn’t work on a smartphone device as far as we could tell. 
  • go to 

Hosts and guests on Airbnb can now access the platform in isiXhosa, isiZulu and Kiswahili - for the first time. This is alongside 28 other new languages, which has doubled the online booking site's bouquet of languages on the platform.

This is part and parcel of the company wanting to bring in more opportunity for local hosts and making it easier for guests to experience travel on the ground with more authentic and unique experiences. 

Airbnb has a good reason to be investing in South African languages. The country has more than 20,000 listings with more than 2 million guests having stayed in Airbnb-listed homes since 2008.

In 2018 alone, Airbnb estimated their direct economic impact at more than R8.7 billion.  

“With Airbnb now supporting Xhosa and Zulu, I hope more potential hosts in some of South Africa’s biggest under-resourced areas consider the real economic opportunity of becoming a tourism entrepreneur,” said Velma Corcoran, Airbnb’s Country Manager for South Africa.

The language transfer is pretty easy on a desktop computer. But, when we tried to change it on our mobile device it wouldn't. We have reached out to Airbnb to see what the problem is. 

Changing the language is easy on desktop computer:

Source Airbnb.
Source Airbnb.

On the home page select the language in the top right-hand tool bar.

Source: Airbnb.
Source: Airbnb.

You can also click this link here which will take you directly to the language setting page.

It is supposed to work on your mobile as well, but we can’t get it to work:

As per Airbnb's instruction, the mobile app uses the language selected in your mobile device settings. To switch, users can simply go to their device settings and change it to one of the new locales that are now supported.

But, we weren't able to change the language at all. We tried and failed miserably. This was after changing our phone default to Zulu, as well as switching the device off and on, as well as uninstalling and reinstalling the app. So we have asked Airbnb to see what is wrong and get back to us.

It is expected that the app will automatically change the language for you after you have changed your devices language settings. Let us know if you have better luck. 

Most of the site's structure is translated – search, bookings and more:  

Source: Airbnb.
Source: Airbnb.

Descriptions provided by hosts as well as comments remain in their original language and are not translated. 

Source Airbnb.
Source Airbnb.

A graphic has been updated with the correct spelling of isiXhosa. We apologise for the inconvenience.

Receive a daily update on your cellphone with all our latest news: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: