to enhance teaching and learning

The more the merrier, the saying goes. When it comes to accommodating different languages, however, can this still be true? And in particular: is it true at the NWU?


Is the NWU able to channel what could easily become something of a Babel of tongues into a merry marriage of languages? Well, when looking at the recent steps the university has taken to implement our language policy and plans, the answer is a definite yes.

Prof Robert Balfour, deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning, is overseeing the realisation of the language policy and plan.



Breaking new ground… This photograph was taken when Education’s Dr Maryna Reyneke (in front, second from right) and Dr Kotie Kaizer (first from left in the back row) attended a colloquium on multilingual pedagogies in higher education at the City University New York (CUNY).


“We had to compile the material for the course on multilingual pedagogies from scratch,” says Maryna, who is the director of the School for Language Education.


While attending the colloquium they discussed possible models of training courses with scholars in the field, such as Ophelia Garcia from CUNY (in front, third from left) and Christa van der Walt from Stellenbosch University (in front, second from left).

Prof Tobie van Dyk, the director of the School of Languages, is driving the process for the Faculty of Humanities

These steps entail a short learning programme empowering lecturers to use multilingual pedagogies in the classroom, as well as various short language acquisition courses in the official NWU languages.


In this article we are first going to look at the pedagogies course and then at the language acquisition courses for which the Faculty of Humanities is responsible.

Multilingual pedagogies: improving teaching and learning

The Faculty of Education compiled the short learning programme focusing on multilingual pedagogies in the classroom.

This course will show lecturers how to harness the diverse language repertoires that lecturers and students bring to the classroom to achieve the best possible teaching and learning experience for all.

It comprises five two-day sessions per year, held across the NWU. The deans have already identified 30 staff members from within the faculties to attend these sessions, which, according to plans, will start in January 2020.

“These lecturers are already excited about implementing multilingual pedagogies,” says the Faculty of Education’s Dr Maryna Reyneke, who is leading the course development team.

The 30 pioneers attending the course will include three lecturers from each of the eight faculties (one faculty representative from each campus) plus two staff members from the Unit for Open and Distance Learning (UODL) and four from the Language Directorate, who will help facilitate the implementation of the multilingual pedagogies.

The idea, says Maryna, is that the lecturers will take their newly gained knowledge back to their faculties to train and inspire their colleagues.

Looking at language differently

“We want our lecturers and students to change the way they think about language usage in the classroom. We want them to help each other to use the different languages brought to the classroom in a functional and relaxed way.”

The multilingual pedagogies will at first only be implemented in first-year programmes identified as the flagship programmes in a faculty.



Develop your multilingual skills


In addition to the multilingual pedagogies course discussed above, there will also be short language acquisition courses.


Before shining the spotlight on these courses, imagine this: Standing at the door of the lecture hall, the lecturer greets her students with a big smile. “Dumela, o kae? Dumela, o phetse jwang? Hallo, hoe gaan dit? Hello, how are you?”


In the near future this scenario – along with even more multilingual interaction – will be the norm at the NWU. To make this possible, staff members will soon be able to attend short courses where they can learn basic Setswana, Sesotho, English or Afrikaans.


The aim of these short courses is to equip our staff to gain a basic knowledge of an additional language, in order to give life to our language policy, and in particular the language plans that followed from it.


Once again the deans are going to nominate staff from their faculties to attend the courses and will also identify the languages that is best suited for their specific learning environments.


The Afrikaans and Setswana courses will be rolled out across the campuses early in 2020, followed by the English and Sesotho courses.


Mastering the basics


Prof Robert Balfour, the deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning, says the idea is to initially encourage basic interpersonal communication skills in several languages in the academic and support environments, and to extend this over the next few years to more advanced levels.


“The aim is that lecturers should eventually be able to explain academic concepts to their students in another language,” he says.


It is envisaged that the beginners courses will be launched in 2020. These entry-level courses will be repeated in 2021, while intermediate and advanced courses will be rolled out in 2021 and 2022 respectively. The ideal is that, in 2023, we will have all three levels running together.


“In addition to the funds that we have already budgeted for, we might also use skills development funds for further input,” says Robert.