Vol 23 No 1 (2014): Nordic Journal of African Studies
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Multilingualism: Can Policy Learn from Practice?

Rubby Dhunpath
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Michael Joseph
University of Limpopo
Nordic Journal of African Studies
Published March 31, 2014


South African schools continue to face challenges in implementing the official bilingual policy at the level of policy development, teacher training, materials development, language pedagogy and assessment. In general, there is a growing sense of policy failure and a resignation that English will inevitably maintain its hegemony over African languages. In this paper, the authors use data generated from a Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) research project, to document the implementation challenges schools face in enacting their language policies, highlighting how innovative schools sought to bring practice closer to policy. The paper presents a critical analysis of the work of three NGO-initiated projects that drove multilingual innovations in selected schools. These exemplary practices serve to reconceptualise the policy-practice nexus and offer an alternative to the prevailing policydriven and problem-identification research. At least one of the NGO interventions surveyed, the Home Language Project, may be considered a methodological breakthrough, with the potential to promote home languages in a low-cost, low-risk project.