Multilingual glossaries: a solution for epistemological access in higher education

  • Thoko T. Batyi
Keywords: linguistic diversity, multilingual glossaries, multilingualism, language development, academic achievement


Summary writing is an important skill In this paper, it is argued that although the preferred language of teaching, learning and assessment at the former Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) is English (NMMU Language Policy, 2009), students’ primary languages can be mobilised to facilitate learning. Internal research at NMMU (2008) indicated that black and coloured students’ pass rates were low. To improve this situation, language support in the form of multilingual glossaries (in English, Afrikaans & isiXhosa) was provided. Multilingual glossaries were developed by communities of practice inside and outside the university. These glossaries have contributed towards changing the monolingual academic environment at NMMU to a multilingual one, and improved Black and Coloured students’ pass rates although they are still lower than their White and Indian counterparts (Sheppard, 2013/14). This study led to the conclusion that, understanding disciplinary concepts through the primary language could improve students’ academic performance and pass rates. A group of 28 Tourism Management students in a Communication tutorial participated in a pilot study conducted by the Centre for Teaching, Learning & Media to develop and measure the effectiveness of these multilingual glossaries. The data, in the form of qualitative and quantitative students’ feedback and pre- and post-test scores, will be presented.

Keywords: linguistic diversity; multilingual glossaries; multilingualism; language development; academic achievement


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eISSN: 0259-9570