Building a knowledge base for language teaching through translanguaging
The aim of the research reported on in this article was to explore the effects on student learning and performance of the use of two languages of instruction, viz. isiZulu and English, in a course on the teaching of isiZulu as an additional language at school level. The course was for third year BA students considering a language teaching career. The content of the course came from the Applied Linguistics field and had not been translated from English into isiZulu. In addition, the discipline content was taught by a non-isiZulu speaking applied linguistics lecturer who had recently joined a three-year major course in isiZulu but was not fluent. The course was team taught by the Applied Linguist and an isiZulu lecturer who made the content accessible to the students through translation of difficult terms and concepts into isiZulu. Students were free to use either language. The research questions focused on how the two languages interacted naturally within a translanguaging framework in order to scaffold learning, and whether and how the use of isiZulu would facilitate understanding of key disciplinary concepts when the terminology had not yet been developed. Class sessions were recorded and transcribed with informed consent. Instances of translanguaging were analyzed in terms of the functions they were fulfilling within a broad discourse analysis framework. Findings revealed that what began as planned and systematic code-switching became, over time, translanguaging. Students appreciated the affordance for meaningful engagement with the subject content as they found it easier to challenge the lecturers and to present their own points of view in isiZulu. The experience also created rich affordances for building an academic discourse in isiZulu. Finally, teaching on the course created learning experiences for the lecturers who increased their knowledge of the languages concerned and the subject content respectively.
Keywords: applied linguistics; codeswitching; isiZulu; language learning; languages of learning and teaching (LoLTs); language scaffolding; tertiary level; translanguaging