Reflections on a research initiative aimed at enhancing the role of African languages in education in South Africa

  • R Wildsmith-Cromarty


In the South African educational domain, there are an increasing number of initiatives which attempt to address the inequities in the system by providing support in an African language at various levels. Many of these initiatives use translation of texts in various subject areas as a major method of support which necessarily involves terminology development. This article puts forward the argument that although linguistic and
conceptual development are inextricably linked, provision of translations, terms and word lists may not be sufficient to encourage ‘deep’ learning of the key concepts in the disciplinary content areas. The challenges arising out of the present educational context in South Africa require a more holistic approach, including language provision and management, professional translation and back translation, more inclusive methods
of terminology development with richer contextualization and the enrichment of teachers’ pedagogic content knowledge. The argument arises out of a re-examination of the findings from research into the development of two multilingual resource books for use by teachers of mathematics and science at secondary school level. These resources were developed in order to facilitate understanding of key concepts in the
mathematics and science disciplines and will undergo a re-appraisal of the extent of their effectiveness in meeting these aims.

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eISSN: 0259-9570