UCT app now translates economic jargon into the 11 official languages to help students study

Business Insider SA

A general view of the University of Cape Town on J

A general view of the University of Cape Town on January 21, 2020 in Cape Town.

A general view of the University of Cape Town on January 21, 2020 in Cape Town.
Gallo Images Gallo Images/Jacques Stander
  • In 2020 the University of Cape launched an app that translates over 1,000 economic terms into the 11 official languages of South Africa. 
  • Leigh Neethling is a lecturer and the project creator who identified a performance gap between students who spoke English as a first language and those who didn't. 
  • The app that was developed with the help of two UCT students is looking to expand its functionality in the future. It is free to download on the Google Play Store and available to the public. 
  • For more stories go to

A University of Cape Town (UCT) economic's lecturer from the faculty of economics is the project creator of the 'EcoDoc' app. This app bridges the language barrier when it comes to studying at it allows students to translate economic jargon into any one of the 11 official languages of their choice to help them study.

Initially created in 2020 by Professor Mbulungeni Madiba the app stems from an economic's dictionary created by the professor.

The faculty of economics at the university has 10 of the largest classes on campus. After discovering a discrepancy between students who spoke English as a first language and those who didn't, creator and commerce lecturer Leigh Neethling saw that outlying students were at a disadvantage. EcoDoc helped bridge this gap providing over 1,000 translations of the terms on the app.  

It's managed by Mwelwa Chipimo and Riyaad Abrahams two of the institution's students who Neethling recruited to help set up and develop the app. 

Neethling told Business Insider SA that they are also looking to secure funding to expand the functionality of the app in the future. The total cost of the developments are yet to be calculated. 

"The app has no graphics and that is the area we are seeking to improve next," says the lecturer. According to Neethling adding visual content will complement and enhance the written explanations. This will better the users' experience.

The app is only available for download on Google Play Store at the moment and is open to the public domain to use. 

With the identified discrepancies in students' performance the prospects are that this app will aid students to better understand their course work and terminology. Neethling said that she did not know of any pending or expected changes to the testing language in the commerce faculty. 

The app has been tested and received feedback from first year economics' students who interacted with the app. Students have been said to be pleased with the developments of the app and how the definitions are easy to comprehend. No data can yet be provided to determine the success rate of the app. Neethling hopes that with further developments to come this can be done. 

Take a look at how to download and use EcoDoc in 3 Steps: 

1. Download and install EcoDoc from the Google Play Store.

UCT, EcoDoc
Screenshot: EcoDoc

2. Click on "Go To Dictionary." 

UCT, EcoDoc
Screenshot: EcoDoc

3. Select desired language to translate to and type the economic term you wish to be translated.

UCT, EcoDoc
Screenshot: EcoDoc

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