Our dream for South Africa on International Mother Language Day – Saalt

To celebrate International Mother Language Day, the Executive Committee members reflected on how we each became interested in language work, what our language dreams are for South Africa, and what our message would be to current and future teachers

At the heart of our association is a commitment to language teaching – not just the teaching of additional or foreign languages, but teaching that advances access through language and access to language.

This commitment of ours is shared by UNESCO and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. They recognise that language and multilingualism can advance inclusion and result in no one being left behind.

​SAALT’s observance of the 2021 International Mother Language Day shines a light not only on the challenge of education recovery in the context of Covid-19 faced by our community of educators but also on what inspired our EXCO members to support language teaching to begin with.
 

Rinelle Evans
SAALT Chairperson

How I became involved in language work
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and took 4 languages at school but I received a bursary for English as a university major which determined the course of my career. My teaching appointments were all for assisting second language speakers to improve their proficiency and confidence when using English. I also did a stint of teaching French to beginners many years ago. I have tried to extend my vocabulary in Sepedi in recent years but am not conversant yet.
 
My university courses all dealt with literature studies and I have always been enthralled by how words and their sounds create certain emotions or conjure up certain images. I was also very excited when I enrolled for an advanced diploma in teaching English to discover the many facets of linguistics. My interest here led to my obtaining a Masters in TESOL which really opened up the world of language intricacies to me.   
 
Shortly after this, I joined the Faculty of Education at the University of Pretoria where I developed modules all related to language development, communication skills and teaching methodologies. One particular course that stands out was the introduction of African languages for teaching purposes. The biggest challenge was how to help prospective teachers extend their language profile in a new language in a short space of time en masse.
 
I attended my first SAALT conference in Bloemfontein in 2001 and have been involved at various levels ever since. 
 
My dream for SA
I advocate for mother tongue education, certainly at Foundation Phase level with an additive approach to additional languages. I dream of teachers being fully proficient in the language they use to teach and having refined communicative skills.
 
My message to teachers
Being able to speak more than one language is an asset, especially in a teaching context. We should all attempt to instil pride in our students/learners for the various languages they speak, showing them the rich cultural heritage embedded in each one. We also need to be more sensitive to the nuances of each other’s languages and make an effort to show interest in our local languages and many cultures. It would be a step forward if we could divorce negative perceptions we hold about our own or other languages as all languages (and by extension their speakers) deserve respect.   

Tobie van Dyk
Deputy Chairperson, SAALT

How I became involved in language work
From school days I just loved languages. Afrikaans, English and Northern Sotho were my favourite subjects. I thoroughly enjoyed both literature and linguistics.  At university I majored in Afrikaans, English, isiZulu and Pedagogics.  As senior student and a little later as young academic I started attending conferences and realised that I was quite interested in language acquisition and course and syllabus design. I became a member of SAALT in 2000 and at some point got elected as Deputy Chairperson, later on Chairperson, then Editor of the Journal for Language Teaching and now again as Deputy Chairperson.  
 
My dream for SA
I’m a supporter of the advancement of multilingualism and sincerely hope that one day all our languages will truly have equal status, not only on paper, but also in practice. I also wish for all learners and students to be exposed to proper language training and support during their studies, since language is the vehicle we use to structure and convey our thoughts.  It is part of our daily existence. If we can use it properly (for different purposes in different contexts), things will be so much better in South Africa. I also think that language is an asset that contributes towards mutual understanding and respect. 
 
My message to teachers
Never stop with what you love and if language is part of that, continue to learn new things, be creative, be supportive and see to it that you make a difference, whether it be in the lives of learners, peers, or superiors. Use language to build bridges and make it work to the benefit of all.  

Kabelo Sebolai
Editor of the Journal for Language Teaching 

How I became involved in language work
I became interested in language teaching after I met and worked with an English Language Fellow (ELF) at the University of the Free State in 2001. He had just started implementing a new course for second language speakers of English aimed at helping them read and write better in English.  I was particularly fascinated by how research informed everything he did: curriculum design, teaching and assessment.
 
My dream for SA
My dream is to see African languages developed enough to serve as media of instruction at schools and universities.
 
My message to teachers
Language proficiency impacts self-esteem.  It is important therefore that a lot more effort is put into especially the teaching of any language that is used for teaching and learning.

Zander Janse van Rensburg
SAALT Treasurer 


How I became involved in language work

I have always been fascinated by the university – both as an institution and as an idea. As far back as I can remember I’ve taken up student assistant positions within different faculties and departments and became known as a problem solver. My background in theology and philosophy gave me a broad perspective on the impact language can have. I eventually found my way into the field of academic writing and became the head of Northwest University’s writing centre. Mine is also the first appointment made in South Africa to the position of investigator of academic integrity.
 
My dream for SA
I dream of a South Africa where all students are able to communicate clearly and critically. Both clarity and criticality are needed to further research to the point that it has a positive effect on the country’s economy.
 
My message to teachers
My advice to students and teachers is to always work on broadening your vocabulary and deepening your critical thinking skills. Nuanced and convincing communication has the power to bring about change. And education is fundamentally about changing the thinking and behaviour of the people (grown or little) in front of you.

Connie Makgabo
SAALT Secretary

How I became involved in language work
English: I have always been interested in learning more about my language, which is Sepedi and the culture thereof. The sense of pride and the desire to learn more about my language and culture was greatly inspired by the lessons from my mother. My position as the secretary at SAALT is exposing me to a variety of language teaching issues and debates, which is helping me to be more open minded. 
 
Sepedi: Go tloga bonnyaneng ke be ken a le kgahlego ya go tsebišiša ka leleme la gešo le setšo , e lego Sepedi gammogo le setšo sa ka. Tlhohleletšo le boikgantšho bja gore ke rate polelo le setšo tša gešo, ke dithuto tšeo ke di filwego ke mma waka.
Maemo a ka bjalo ka mongwaledi wa SAALT a nthuša gore ke kgone go bona le go kwešiša mekgwanakgwana ye e fapanego, dipoledišano gammogo le dintlha tše bohlokwa tšeo di amanago le go ruta maleme a mantši a go fapana.     
 
My dream for SA
English: My greatest desire is to see technology being integrated in teaching Sepedi, using apps that will enhance the teaching, learning, further development and promotion of the language. 
 
Sepedi: Kganyogo ya ka ye kgolo ke go bona theknolotši e šomišwa dithutong tša Sepedi, ka go šomiša diApp le tše dingwe tšeo di ka thušago go godiša, go tšweletša, le go hlatloša tsebo ya go ruta.
 
My message to teachers
English: Language is an important tool to reveal one’s identity!
Sepedi: Polelo ke setlabelo se bohlokwa sa go tšweletša botšo bja motho ofe kapa ofe.

Alexa Anthonie
SAALT Additional member

How I became involved in language work
English:My fascination with language started in a home filled with magazines and recitations of Shakespeare plays by my grandfather. Being brought up by a poet mother must have also had and influence, but my most memorable experiences with language were thanks to my high school English teacher who made the pain of King Lear and the tragic romance of The Great Gatsby relatable and real.

At university I became interested in linguistics and, after graduating, I waded my way through jobs in the media and eventually the TVET sector. This is where my passion for linguistics was renewed. I attended a linguistics conference in the hope of understanding how language could improve outcomes for my students, and ended up joining the SAALT team at the same time.

Afrikaans: My fassinasie met taal het sy begin in ‘n huis wat gevul was met tydskrifte en voordragte van Shakespeare se toneelstukke deur my oupa. Die feit dat ek grootgemaak is deur ‘n digterma moes ‘n invloed gehad het, maar my mees onvergeetlike ervaringe met taal was te danke aan my hoërskool Engelse onderwyser wie die pyn van King Lear en die tragiese romanse van The Great Gatsby so tasbaar gemaak het.

Aan Universiteit het ek ‘n belangstelling in taalwetenskap ontwikkel en, na my graad, het ek die media wêreld betree. Ek het uiteindelik in die TVOO sektor beland en het hier opnuut my passie vir taalwetenskap ontdek. Ek het ‘n taalkonferensie bygewoon, hopend dat ek sou kon leer hoe taal die uitkomste van my studente kon verbeter, en het toe sommer opgeëindig as addisionele lid van SAVTO.

My dream for SA
English:I would love to see technology advance to the stage where diverse language speakers can be in a classroom and speak to their teacher and each other in the language(s) they are most comfortable with and be instantly understood by everyone.

Afrikaans: Ek sou graag wou sien dat tegnologie so vorder dat sprekers van diverse tale in een klaskamer kan wees en met mekaar asook hul onderwyser kan gesels in die taal waarin hul mees gemaklik is en dat hulle oombliklik verstaan sal kan word deur almal.

My message to teachers
English:Never underestimate the impact you have as a teacher! Use your words and your attitudes towards language(s) to empathise, respect and inspire. I recently mourned the loss of my high school English teacher to Covid-19. I realised too late that I still had so much to learn from her.

Afrikaans Moet nooit die impak wat jy as onderwyser kan hê onderskat nie! Gebruik jou woorde en jou houdings teenoor taal/tale om te empatiseer, te respekteer en te inspirer. Ek het onlangs die verlies van my hoërskool Engelse onderwyser aan Covid-19 betreur en te laat besef dat ek nog soveel van haar wou leer.

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