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Translanguaging in Science Education in South African Classrooms: Challenging Constraining Ideologies for Science Teacher Education

Part of the Sociocultural Explorations of Science Education book series (SESE,volume 27)

Abstract

South Africa is a multilingual country and the Language in Education Policy (1997) allows for any of the 11 official languages to be used as the language of learning and teaching. However, language ideologies originating in the colonial era, coupled with the global dominance of English, have meant that the majority of schools have chosen English from grade 4 or even earlier – despite the fact that few children by this stage achieve the necessary proficiency in English to fully access the curriculum.

This chapter seeks to challenge the dominant monolingual and anglonormative language ideologies by exploring some alternative translanguaging practices of teachers and learners in multilingual classrooms and how these support opportunities to learn science. Illustrative vignettes are presented from four research studies: the grade 4 transition year from home language isiXhosa instruction to English and how this constrains learners’ participation and meaning-making; learners’ languaging practices in small-group work and how they mobilize their linguistic resources for effective discussion of science concepts; translanguaging practices in teacher-led whole-class talk and how this engages learners in meaning-making and scaffolds learning across the mode continuum; and how written translation activities enable learners to deepen their conceptual understandings. Collectively, these vignettes offer insights for teacher education and development in multilingual classrooms.

Keywords

  • Translanguaging
  • Science education
  • Multilingual education
  • Language ideologies
  • Teacher education
  • South African education

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We have opted to use the term ‘home language/s’ to refer to the language or languages that a learner or teacher most often uses at home and in their community and which will be the language or languages most familiar to them. We are aware that the term is imprecise and does not capture the fluid multilingual languaging practices in many urban townships. In addition, the variety of named language/s used by a learner at home or in their community may differ from the official variety and many learners may be most familiar with an urban vernacular that encompasses elements of several named languages. By contrast, outside of the multilingual urban environments, the official African languages have strong geographic bases and so teachers and learners frequently share a common home language.

  2. 2.

    The exception to this is Afrikaans home language learners who are able to continue learning through Afrikaans as the official language of instruction throughout schooling. This is a small minority of learners.

  3. 3.

    An encouraging development reported in the media is that in 2020, grade 12 learners in one South African province were for the first time able to choose whether to write some of their school leaving examinations in English or isiXhosa (https://www.dispatchlive.co.za/news/2020-09-07-eastern-cape-mother-tongue-exam-choice-now-a-reality/)

  4. 4.

    For the use of online and student-generated glossaries in higher education in South Africa see Madiba (2014) and Antia and Dyers (2019).

  5. 5.

    For a fuller discussion of Yonela and Thandile’s translation process, see McKinney and Tyler (2018).

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Correspondence to Annemarie Hattingh .

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Hattingh, A., McKinney, C., Msimanga, A., Probyn, M., Tyler, R. (2021). Translanguaging in Science Education in South African Classrooms: Challenging Constraining Ideologies for Science Teacher Education. In: Jakobsson, A., Nygård Larsson, P., Karlsson, A. (eds) Translanguaging in Science Education. Sociocultural Explorations of Science Education, vol 27. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-82973-5_11

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