In his keynote address to the recent Litasa conference in July, Professor Leketi Makalela from Wits University outlined a number of ways in which learning materials could support a multilingual pedagogy and translanguaging teaching and learning strategies. He listed integrated and multilingual textbooks, monolingual texts that teachers mediate multilingually, as well as textbooks that have one page in one language followed by the same page translated into another language, as examples.

These possibilities are currently being explored in two research projects in Rwanda and Tanzania, where multilingual textbooks are being written and trialled. The conference heard from Casimir Rubagumya (Tanzania) and John Simpson (Rwanda), who are developing multilingual textbooks for high school students, in subjects including Biology and Mathematics.

The textbooks in these projects are characterised by:

  • Glossaries of terms in English and Kiswahili (Tanzania) or English and Kinyarwanda (Rwanda)
  • Short texts in accessible English
  • Lots of visual support in the form of illustrations and diagrams
  • Opportunities for learners to discuss content in the languages they know and to use code-switching in their speaking and writing
  • Knowledge presented in contexts that are relevant and culturally appropriate.

These projects present interesting models for exploration in our context in South Africa and help to focus our thinking on key questions:

  • What role can textbooks play in promoting and normalising multilingualism in teaching and learning?
  • How do the materials make an impact in a potentially hostile or contradictory official policy and practice environment?

For more details on the Rwanda and Tanzania projects, plus on work being done in Gauteng developing multilingual materials for Maths in the Foundation Phase, read the article here …

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