VUT EXPLORES A NEW WAY OF TEACHING THROUGH TRANSLANGUAGUING: A Call to Treat All SA Languages Equally
By Qhawekazi Memani 04 April 2022
Guest Speaker, Prof Mbulungeni Madiba and Ms. Tebogo Mathebula: VUT Sepedi Language Practitioner who was the chair of the session
In one of his speeches, President Cyril Ramaphosa said only 23% of South Africans identify English or Afrikaans as their home language, yet 100% of children are expected to navigate their school years in these languages exclusively. According to him, this hamper learning and comprehension and probably contributes to high dropout rates in our schools. It needs to be addressed as a learning and social justice imperative.
As an indirect response to the President’s call, on 24 March, through its African Languages Development Unit (ALDU), the Centre for Academic Development (CAD) held a Translanguaging Workshop for the Vaal University of Technology (VUT)’s mentors and tutors. The training will equip the mentors and tutors with the necessary skills to use several languages in their sessions.
Introducing the purpose of the day, Mr. Jacob Thamaga, ALDU Acting Director, said: We are certain that by so doing, we will promote multilingualism at VUT, as well as enable students to gain better understanding of the content which in return, will play a paramount role in terms of student success.”
“I believe that we are all aware of the role languages play in our lives, we communicate with the world through language, language defines our identity, we express our history and culture through language. We learn, participate, and express our individuality in all aspects of society through language,” explained Mr Thamaga.
The session was chaired by Ms. Tebogo Mathebula: VUT Sepedi Language Practitioner and the opening address was delivered by Dr. Muntuwenkosi Chili; Executive Director: CAD welcomed the guests.
The guest speaker was Professor Mbulungeni Madiba: Dean of Education at Stellenbosch University.
The following CAD staff also participated in the facilitation of the programme:
- Mothosi Samosam: Learning and Development Coordinator
- Percy Mdunge: Programme Tutor
- Mr Kabelo Raselabe : Maths Science Engineering & Technology
(MSET) Specialist (representing Dr. Moses Peleyeju)
- Thabang Molatou: Language Practitioner
According to the United Nations Education and Scientific Committee (UNESCO 2019), a person’s right to use their chosen language is a prerequisite for freedom of thought, opinion and expression, access to education and information, employment, building inclusive societies, and other values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, the Constitution of South Africa (1996) also enshrines all the eleven official languages, however, it states that more attention should be on the development of historically sidelined languages.
“In line with the National Implementation Frameworks, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) published a Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions. The framework seeks to address the challenges of underdevelopment and underutilization of official African languages at Public Higher Education Institutions, whilst simultaneously sustaining the standard and utilization of languages that are already developed,” said Mr Thamaga.
Attendees of the workshop
Welcoming everyone to the event Dr Chili said: “we are hard at work to ensure that we comply with all the afore-mentioned national frameworks hence the need for such multilingual training sessions. Most importantly, we believe the greater inclusion of African languages in the curriculum is going to help in terms of promoting access, retention, and success.”
Guest Speaker, Prof Mbulungeni Madiba said: “English, as a form of learning, has proven to be traumatic for many students. Education should be centered around student success.”
Prof Madiba shared some insights from a study he had conducted on the subject. The study concluded that translanguaging not only provides an alternative academic strategy in multilingual contexts, but also:
- Resolves the tension often observed between students’ heterogenous life-world reality and an institutionally maintained ideal of single, holistic and unitary language, which excludes students’ existing linguistic resources they bring into the academic learning environment.
- Translanguaging allows multilingual speakers to intentionally integrate local and academic discourse as a form of resistance, re-appropriation/ transformation of academic discourse.
Prof Madiba highlighted that there are resources universities can use in translanguaging.
During discussions, the mentors and tutors agreed with Prof Madiba’s assertion. Mentor, Nqobile Nkosi, said: “translanguaging will make us comfortable to converse, and home language is supposed to add to what you seek to better.”
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Thamaga disclosed that VUT is in the process of reviewing its language policy, and he is hoping to see VUT signage on buildings written in different native languages. He also invited the students to participate in research aimed at publishing a study around translanguaging at VUT.
VUT Language Practitioner, Ms Mathebula, shared some words of advice: “As advised by Prof Madiba, there’s no crime in using your language in your studies. Form help groups that will assist your students to understand what is being taught.”