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A.C. - South Africa said:
Multilingualism: A South African Perspective: Implications and SolutionsIn South Africa today, we are a multi-cultured and multi-lingual society, with many races, religions and genders that include 11 official languages. The South African classroom results in many diverse children with diverse needs based on their cultural backgrounds. This in it its own presents challenges and barriers, we as educators of the future nation need to overcome: many classrooms are English based and instructions are given in English throughout the grades. This causes a deep rooted issue as the majority of the learner?s are multilingual, bilingual or their mother-tongue, is isiXhosa and /or another Language for example Afrikaans, Sotho or Zulu; and not English. Implications of Multilingualism in the classroom The implications of this is widespread and De Klerk ( 2006: 15) emphasizes the growing crisis of the language in South African education as language is essential to thinking and learning and learners need to be able to learn in the language or language(s) which best suits them. This is not the case and implications include the following dilemmas: In the South African Journal of Education (2003:122), Du Plessis and Naude argue that learners early education focuses on language and when second language learners are presented in a classroom environment in the pre-school stage, their English learning may still not possess all the language skills needed to understand the content of instruction and may display difficulties, causing language impairment and lag. That this could lead to an emotional instability and social exclusion as young learners feel like failures in interpersonal relationships, communication and doing tasks. Du Plessis and Naude further argue that, by placing a multilingual child in an English mainstream class, that has no prior knowledge on an additional language, more problems such as understanding vocabulary, syntactic and communicative skills arise and the learner will evidently struggle when reaching primary school. Another implication for multilingual learners would be subsequent reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. If the Language of Learning and Teaching does not support their home language, learner?s who do not have a strong base in prior knowledge of the English language will be weak and they will not have sufficient skills to do reading, writing, speaking and listening, greatly impeding their learning time and development in primary school. Another issue, highlighted by Byrnes and Wasik (2009: 320) is the socio-cultural issues such as ethnicity plays a role on impacting on Learning and Teaching as the meaning of words differ according to various ethnic groups. This may result in confusion for a young learner and hinder language development De Klerk (2006: 5-6) mentions that parents feel, although they wish their child to learn English, they do not want it to result in the loss of their home language: highlighting another repercussion; when the transition from Mother tongue to English negatively affects the child?s home language and may eventually lead to the deterioration of the multilingual child?s ability to speak their mother tongue. Solutions When dealing with multilingualism in a classroom, solutions tend be controversial and a subject of intense debate, with many solutions and suggestions, Laufer (2006: 28) states: ?? It is usually the case that the learner and the home are expected to adapt to the language and culture of the educational system and institutions rather than the other way around? This leads to the suggestion that educators and educational institutions need to devise strategies for ensuring that all learners are affirmed with regard to their second language(s) Laufer (2006: 37). This could be done through teachers using cross-curricular approaches in primary schools which offer opportunities to acknowledge multicultural dimensions for study, a dual language book to promote the multilingual learner?s language transition and also story telling which is said to be an effective way to encourage a multilingual child to negotiate between more than one language, Wyse and Jones (2003: 254-255) Cohen (1998: 68) states that language learning and language use strategies should be implemented by learners themselves to improve their understanding of a targeting language. This could be done through peer group work, making their own dual language books, asking the teacher for further explanation, practicing their second language in parallel to their home language and videotaped sessions for easy playback. Cohen (1998: 69) further argues that the goal is to train learners on how, when and why strategies can be used to facilitate their efforts at learning and using a foreign language or additional language so they can learn to plan, monitor, problem solve and evaluate their learning processes. Conclusion Therefore, one can see, through various research and literary reviews, multilingualism is a very complex issue and needs attention. Heugh (2002: 193) states that ??multilingual education in South Africa is under attack.? The question is therefore not, how it should be followed, but rather how it can be realized. How can we as educators come to a sound conclusion as to what can be done to promote multilingualism in schools and develop multilingual learners according to their rights to be taught in their home-language. Reference List Cohen, A. D. (1998). Strategies in Learning and using a Second Language. In A. D. Cohen, Strategies in Learning and using a Second Language (pp. 68-69). new york: Addison Wesley Longman Limited. Francis, H. (1977). Language in Teaching and Learning. London: George Allen and Unwin. Wasik, D and Jones, R. (2001). Teaching English, Language and Literacy. New York: RoutledgeFalmer. Kathleen Heugh. (2002). Perspectives in Education, Volume 20, Number 1. In V. D. Klerk, Language issues in our Schools Part 1 and Part 2 (pp. 1-29). Pretoria : V&R Printers. Laufer, M (2006). The Multilingual Challenge. Paarl: Paarl Print. Leu, S (1997). The Dilemmas of English as Second Language Children Learning to read in an All-English mainstream Classroom. 1-31. Du Plessis, S and Naude, E (2003). Needs of pre-school centres with regard to multilingual learners. South African Journal of Education Volume 23 Number 2 , 122-129. Erasmie, T (1975). Language Development and Social Influence. Scandinavian University Books. Pluddermann, P, Mbude- Shale, Z and Wababa, Z (2005). Promotion of Indeginous Languages and Home Language Teaching and Learning in the First Seven Years of Schooling in the Eastern Cape. Department of Education. Byrnes, J and Wasik, B (2009). Lanuage and Literacy Development: What Educators Need to Know. New York: The Guilford Press. Wessels, M and Van Den Berg, R. (2006). Practical Guide to Facilitating Language Learning. Cape Town. Oxford University Press.