Stellenbosch – Professor Bassey Antia raised an important academic issue during a guest lecture at Stellenbosch University (SU), the recent anti-multilingualism in academic institutions.
Antia, a lecturer at the UWC Linguistics Department, delivered a lecture on the importance of terminology in assessment contexts within secondary and tertiary education on Thursday. He briefly addressed the subject of anti-multilingualism within academia, a notion that has become popular with particular student associations regarding language options.
His view comes after the Stellenbosch University crisis where the T-option was criticised in favour of a single medium teaching- and testing situation. US is currently undergoing transformation to a double-medium institution.
His discussion started with ‘testing accommodation’ which he defined as the, “modification of the test or testing situation to help students and ensure [language] barriers are removed.”
According to Antia the South African Department of Basic Education decided to provide Afrikaans and English matric exams papers as it would be easier than adding African languages spoken in the area.
Antia argues against this decision by saying that more languages need to be added to exam papers in order to improve testing accommodation, resulting in better scores.
It is a common belief in the linguistic field that bi- and multilingualism have cognitive benefits, thus Antia suggests that the potential of multilingual terminology needs to be exploited. He added that terminology can be seen as, “building blocks of specialised knowledge,” and that a specifically formatted exam paper might provide academic advantages.
Juliane Bockmühl, a post-graduate student at the Stellenbosch University Linguistics Department, stated that it is rarely a straightforward answer when dealing with multilingualism. She said that having multiple languages in exam papers might help.
“In-between languages there are different connotations attached to words, so building up on those various meanings that they gather from having more than one language might definitely increase understanding of the content and what is expected,” Bockmühl said.
This links with Antia’s view that multilingualism greatly affects students’ progress as they can consult both languages in test situations to find the correct answers.
Antia concluded his lecture and called on the government to consider his study’s results and invest in research around multilingualism. “This research should include providing mother-tongue education to students and testing them in multilingual situations where these advantages can take place,” said Bockmühl.
Antia emphasised that including more mother-tongue languages in assessment contexts will significantly improve results.