Uthini: Language Learning from Home Speakers


In this episode, we’re in Cape Town talking with Miguel Da Costa, the co-founder and Head of Operations at Uthini. Uthini enables people to learn a new language via messaging, using a combination of a digital chatbot and human tutors who are native language speakers. We discuss how to best combine the strengths of humans and technology, the power of messaging apps, deciding on non-negotiables, and more.


“We don't want to replace our human tutors… We rather want to try to supplement them and provide them with resources so they can do their job better, because language learning in our opinion is a very human process and requires humans.”

“We’re accountable to humans, not tech.”

“When we took away all the intricacies of human relationships, of background, of the culture and seeing that person's photo and seeing what they look like and asking them questions, it just took away all the fun and the nuance of language.”

“We spend more time now on messaging apps than we do in any of the other social media apps. So we'll spend more time on, in South Africa, WhatsApp, than we'll spend on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter.”

“Decide on your non-negotiables… We’re always going to have human tutors… It's non-negotiable now because all the evidence tells us that it's what makes us unique… So until that evidence changes, it'll be a non-negotiable.”

Learn More

  • To learn more about Uthini, check out their website at uthini.co.za.

Julia Neidert