putting policy into practice


The NWU’s language policy has passed the drawing board stage and is ready for action.

eish! asked Johan Blaauw, director of the Language Directorate, to tell us more about the progress made with the implementation of the NWU’s language plans in 2019 and what lies ahead for 2020.


Q: What are language plans and how do they relate to the language policy?

A: The language policy is but a theoretical framework, so language plans have to be put in place to enable us to implement it.

These plans are customised for each of the main domains in which the policy applies, namely teaching-learning, student life, administration and the linguistic landscape of the NWU.

Q: Are we on schedule with the implementation of the language plans?

A: Yes, we are. Some aspects of the plans are already being implemented, such as multilingual study material and the compilation of multilingual terminology lists, while the major work is planned for 2020.

We will help staff to compile the terminology lists, probably by convening a workshop, so as to enhance compatibility and usefulness across all units.

Q: What has been accomplished so far, especially during 2019?

A: Each faculty has developed its own language plan to give effect to the language policy in its unique environment, as has Student Life.

Corporate Communication and Marketing is putting a plan into effect to make the landscape of the NWU a visibly multilingual one on the university's signage.

The administrative environment is still refining its draft language plan and is gathering more data about its various activities for this purpose.

Q: What steps do we need to take in 2020?

A: 2020 will be the first year of implementing the language policy via the language plans.

We have to keep in mind, though, that implementation will be a process, unfolding over the next few years. Importantly, the language plans are living documents that will be developed and refined during implementation.

We know what we want to achieve in terms of multilingualism, for instance developing Setswana and Sesotho to become fully fledged academic languages. How exactly we are going to get there is not cast in stone. What we do know for certain is that multilingual pedagogies (teaching approaches) will play a very important role.

In simple terms this means that the various multilingual repertoires or language skills staff and students bring into the classroom will be used to achieve effective teaching and learning. The Faculty of Education will also offer short learning courses to teaching staff to develop their skills in this regard.

Q: Is there a date for finalising the implementation somewhere in the future?

A: The short answer is no. Our policy is one of additive multilingualism, so we will constantly be adding to our multilingual offering.

As part of this ongoing process, the Faculty of Humanities will offer short language acquisition courses in the NWU languages to enable staff and students to function more multilingually.

Q: Can you tell us what the final outcome of the implementation should be? (In other words, what will the final overall “language picture” at the NWU look like?)

A: Our dream is to create a university where everybody will feel welcome in their languages and be able to use their languages to teach, learn and interact freely.

We want to have a university that will enable students to complete their studies while also using their mother tongue, for example Setswana, together with any of the various languages of learning and teaching that will be available at the NWU.