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Stellenbosch embraces multilingual teaching

English and Afrikaans will be afforded equal status in the lecture halls at Stellenbosch University, the institution’s council has decided.

In a statement released on Monday, the university announced that multilingualism and an increase in lectures in English and Afrikaans would form the essence of a language policy which was accepted by the university’s council on Saturday.

A commitment was made to make additional funding available to ensure that at least 75 percent of all the university’s undergraduate modules would be offered in English and Afrikaans within the next five years.

Modules in the engineering faculty are offered in both languages and the faculty of economic and management sciences was expected to reach this goal by 2016.

The former predominantly white and Afrikaans university has started following a mixed language model which consists of a combination of: separate Afrikaans and English classes (parallel medium) mostly in large classes of 250 or more students; lectures in English only, with in-time interpreting into Afrikaans, or vice versa; and dual-medium classes where Afrikaans and English are spoken, with at least 50 percent in Afrikaans.

Council chairman George Steyn said Afrikaans and multilingualism were regarded as assets for the university.

“The Afrikaans offering will be increased, but without excluding non-Afrikaans speakers. The manner in which Stellenbosch University will manage multilingualism in future will create a unique distinguishing advantage because we will take the context, the academic programme and the students’ needs into consideration. The objective is to facilitate optimal learning and teaching for all South Africans.”

The university also “accepts responsibility to promote Xhosa as an academic language and language of social interaction judiciously and where possible”.

The university launched various initiatives regarding Xhosa, including short courses in basic communication skills. The Language Centre has developed sport terminology in three languages for rugby and soccer.

In June, the council asked the vice-rector: Learning and Teaching to present a plan for the institution’s language offering at the council’s September meeting.

The university’s language policy is revised every three years.

The language policy and plan were drafted by a task team which consulted with university bodies. Staff and students were also invited to provide input. The university said all contributions had been considered.

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