Introducing the English Language to learners in a multilingual environment: a dilemma that must be resolved
Learning in one’s home language is a fundamental human right as initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). It is expected that every child will be educated in his or her mother tongue because of the inherent advantages of mother tongue instruction. However, this has not translated into a reality in many African countries. While the discussion about introducing African languages in schools continues, English remains the language of instruction and assessment. Whilst the South African Language-in-Education Policy (1996) promotes multilingualism, with the underlying principle to maintain home language(s) while providing access to and the effective acquisition of additional languages, the document remains vague on when to introduce English language to learners, leaving the decision to the schools and other stakeholders. This has created a lack of uniformity in schools nationally with dire consequences for the learners on multiple levels. English language is taught as a subject either as Home Language or as the First Additional Language. This dichotomy affects the time the language is introduced to the learners as the Language of Learning and Teaching as well as the time the learners engage with the language. The time learners spend in engaging with the language in the two different types of schools is evaluated and suggestions are made towards the implementation of a levelplaying field for all learners. The paper recommends a unified time of introducing the English language alongside at all schools.
Keywords: Language policy, Home Language, First Additional Language, Dichotomy, Codeswitching and Translanguaging