Task team examines multilingualism at UCT

28 July 2003
UCT should view the development and implementation of a multilingual language policy as an asset and although likely to cost the university a substantial amount of money, it will be of great value to students, allowing them to operate in a multicultural environment.

This is according to Professor Leon de Stadler, Director of Stellenbosch University's Language Centre. De Stadler was invited by UCT's Multilingualism Task Team to discuss multilingual issues following Stellenbosch's successful implementation of their language policy and the inception of their Language Centre.

With Stellenbosch having begun the development of multilingual glossaries for certain subjects, such as sociology, De Stadler believes there are many areas where UCT and Stellenbosch can work together.

He said: "We can save time and resources if we join forces and work together on issues such as terminology development. There is no need to duplicate work if we come together and share the work-load.

Continually consulting with each other would be essential, he added. "It will offer UCT the opportunity to learn from what has and hasn't worked for us."

Stellenbosch's implementation process has seen top management undertaking a Xhosa course to ensure they can effectively use the language to communicate in an environment of meetings and everyday situations.

"Academic and administrative staff must be partners in the implementation process," De Stadler affirmed. "Everyone must understand their responsibility in the development of a particular language."

According to Dr Rochelle Kapp of the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED), UCT's current language policy recognises that language is a resource, one which needs to be valued.

"It is crucial for our students to be literate in the official medium of instruction as well as to develop multilingual awareness and proficiency," said Kapp.

"UCT's Multilingualism Task Team now needs to develop a plan to turn this ideal into a reality. The team will develop the plan only after extensive consultation with staff and students," she added.

Minister of Education Kader Asmal's Language Policy for Higher Education (November 2002) requires higher education institutions to include in their three-year rolling plans, the strategies they have put in place to promote multilingualism and to show progress in this regard.

UCT's Senate executive has addressed this by asking the Vice-Chancellor to review the policy and the Curriculum Working Group (CWG) has been tasked with examining curriculum issues.

Kapp said: "As a consequence of this, CHED has produced a position paper and Associate Professor Mugsy Spiegel, the head of the Department of Social Anthropology, was asked to chair a task team to assess the issues and to produce a plan for implementation.

The task team is required to report back to the CWG by October 8, after which the proposals will go to Senate.

The task team comprises: Dr Benito Khotseng (DVC), Associate Professors Sandile Gxilishe and Russell Kaschula of the African languages and literatures section of the School of Languages and Literatures, Professor Raj Ramesar of the human genetics division in the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Dr Rochelle Kapp (CHED) and Bregje (Bee) Wijsenbeek of the SRC.

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