03 January 2023 | Story Dr Cindé Greyling | Photo Anja Aucamp
Dr Nomalungelo Ngubane
Dr Nomalungelo Ngubane, the Director: Academy for Multilingualism, is working through various initiatives to ensure that the UFS becomes and remains the South African leader in multilingualism.

The Academy for Multilingualism was established at the beginning of 2021, flowing from the UFS Language Policy (2016) that is currently under review, and which expresses the university’s commitment to multilingualism, with a particular emphasis on Sesotho, Afrikaans, and isiZulu, while English remains the primary medium of instruction for undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

The Student Language Preference Survey continues to indicate that many students have difficulty understanding English lectures due to language differences. Multilingual models from places like South America, India and South Africa were considered in order to structure the approach at the UFS.

Promoting indigenous languages

To mitigate the English barrier, the academy is developing multilingual academic glossaries. The multilingual glossaries are also intended to drive the promotion of indigenous languages (Sesotho/Afrikaans/IsiZulu) as academic languages, and to create multilingual learning spaces that embrace diverse languages.

Academic word lists from seven departments are in the process of being translated – in conjunction with the Unit of Lexicography – to create glossaries. The team at South African Sign Languages will add videos to these glossaries to provide unique and inclusive content in the realm of multilingualism. 

In 2022, the academy, in collaboration with the Library and Information Services, launched an African Languages Press with the aim of promoting and advancing publications of literature and research books using South African indigenous languages. 

The Academy for Multilingualism also promotes multilingualism through the Initiative for Creative African Narratives (iCAN), a programme that encourages students to write short stories in their indigenous home languages. By incorporating student narratives into learning material, students learn about one another, from one another.

The iCAN multilingual booklets are also used to encourage extensive reading among undergraduates and among learners in the surrounding community schools.

Use of translanguaging practices
The academy is also working with the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s (CTL) A_STEP programme to pilot the use of translanguaging practices in tutor sessions. UFS staff will also be trained on teaching and translanguaging practices. Voice-over translations of English lessons into Afrikaans and Sesotho in the Faculty of Theology and Religion paved the way for the academy to proceed with this practice in other subjects. The Translanguaging Seminar 2022, hosted by the academy and the CTL, was used as a platform for sharing translanguaging knowledge and practices by academics from the UFS and other institutions.

The Kovsies Multilingual Mokete has become a popular annual tradition celebrating different cultural expressions – in visual art, poetry, storytelling, drama, music, and song – by different language groups and in the different languages that are dominant at the UFS (i.e. English, Afrikaans, Sesotho, isiZulu, and Sign Language). This year’s event was held on the South Campus in October.

With its various initiatives, the Academy for Multilingualism will ensure that the UFS becomes and remains the South African leader in multilingualism.

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.