Language-in-education planning in the Northern Cape and Free State. An assessment of two language acquisition programmes in schools

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Language-in-education planning (also known as language acquisition planning) is seen as a powerful area of planned language change. The language-in-education planning initiative considered in this article is the 2013 Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL), launched between 2015 and 2018. This initiative is essentially a typical government-sponsored language promotion project launched by the Department of Education to promote language distribution. Two contemporary case studies are discussed in this article: Sotho as a second additional language in Free State schools, and Nama as a second additional language in Northern Cape schools; the former as a curricular and the latter as an extracurricular activity. In the first case study, the IIAL seeks to promote the prestige of the previously marginalised “African languages”, and in the second case study the draft policy predicts the revival of Nama as a heritage language. Although it is one policy with two different implementation motives, the two studies differ. Both have challenges in terms of language statuses, but the focus of the former is on language maintenance and dissemination, while the latter focuses on language regeneration. Furthermore, they differ in terms of language acquisition. In the Sotho project, foreign language acquisition is considered, but in the Nama project it refers to the acquisition of what the involved community call a heritage language. The motivation for the two initiatives, namely social cohesion and the revival of a language, is also a prominent difference. Given the differences and similarities, the purpose of this article is to consider the relationship between language planning goals, language plans, and language planning programmes. This connection is discussed by studying the IIAL and the implementation of policy at selected schools in the Kopanong region of the Southern Free State and at two Northern Cape schools. Kaplan and Baldauf Jr’s (2003:201–2) extended framework for language planning goals is used as a departure point for this comparative study.

The emphasis of this article is on policy design and, as such, on an analysis of relevant archival documents to gain access to two language implementation projects. This review refers to the design of appropriate policies regarding the acquisition of additional languages within the South African education system. In the case of Nama, the design stems from a non-language-planning document (a partnership agreement between the southern region of Namibia and the Northern Cape) and in the case of Sotho, from an official national language planning document (the IIAL).

Based on the framework for language planning goals (Kaplan and Baldauf Jr 2003:201–2), it was established that the necessary policy mechanisms are indeed in place to ensure success in acquiring the targeted additional languages. These policy mechanisms are found in various national policy documents within education, including the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) and related documents. As an overall policy document, the NCS makes sufficient provision for the acquisition of the second additional language (SAL). It spells out what outcomes are relevant, and provides guidance to schools regarding curriculum content, methods and materials, as well as who can and should participate in the programme concerned. Specifically, the relevant Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) document (for SALs) plays a central role in this, but in conjunction with other policy documents regarding the funding of such programmes, appropriate resources, and access to education in general.

One of the gaps in policy mechanisms that has been identified is the relative absence of community policy, a shortcoming that, according to Kaplan and Baldauf Jr (2003:219), is a frequent occurrence. Nevertheless, it has been established that community involvement is a factor to consider, as can be seen in the relative success achieved with the Nama programmes.

Some design challenges that need further attention have been identified. One of the most important of these is the fact that Nama has not yet been institutionalised as SAL and that the implementation of the IIAL is not running smoothly; this following the study of the implementation of Sotho as Second Additional Language in Philippolis. The problems encountered with suitable teaching and learning material in particular pose a major challenge that deserves urgent attention. Nevertheless, it would be ideal to set up a heritage language category in the language curriculum.

In the end, the investigators were able to identify factors that could play a role in the successful implementation of Nama as extracurricular SAL in Northern Cape schools and Sotho as SAL under the IIAL in Philippolis. It seems that the necessary policies to ensure success exist, especially in the case of the Sotho project, but that gaps exist regarding its implementation. The same cannot be said of the Nama project, but it seems that this gap can be overcome by the enthusiastic cooperation of the community and decision makers. This striking difference between the two projects suggests that motivation is ultimately a significant variable that should be taken into account and which the framework for language planning goals does not provide for. Further studies can be done to research this aspect in light of the important work of Ager (2001) on motivation in language planning and determine how it links with language acquisition planning. However, in the end, the success of such a language acquisition programme is determined by its outcome, i.e. whether or not the learners acquire the necessary language skills. This aspect was also not addressed in the present study and certainly requires further investigation.

Keywords: language-in-education planning; Nama acquisition; Sotho acquisition


Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans

Taal-in-onderwys-beplanning in die Noord-Kaap en Vrystaat. ’n Beoordeling van twee taalverwerwingsprogramme in skole 

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