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Should the mother tongue be the medium of instruction in South African schools?

Rechy 11 / 73  
Mar 17, 2013   #1
Please I need urgent proofreading!

The mother tongue is the first language(s) learnt as a child, rather than a language learned at school or as an adult (Cambridge Dictionaries Online, 2013). The term mother tongue originates from the notion that linguistic skills of a child are honed by the mother and therefore the language spoken by the mother would be the primary language that the child would learn. Just as Phillipson (1992:120) has said that, 'an apparently sound focus on the mother tongue as a medium of education does not in itself provide a guarantee of enlightened education', in this paper arguments supporting the non-implementation of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction in South African schools will be laid out.

One of the main factors militating against the application of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction is the multilingual setting in South Africa. It is a known fact to all that South Africa is a multilingual country adopting eleven languages: Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, English, Venda, Setswana, as its official languages. From this arises the issue of the difficulty in choosing a single mother tongue i.e. single language policy as a medium of instruction in South African schools, which would suit every school context in South Africa (Felix Banda.2000). Furthermore, the implementation of the mother tongue instruction would result into the division of schools into different and respective language groupings as a result of the diverse mother tongue inherent to each pupil, which could possibly result to a sort of linguistic apartheid (Anthea Fraser Gupta.1977).

According to the Canadian linguist, William F. Mackey (1992:52), 'A language which lacks a well-established written form cannot be empowered which in turn jeopardises the potential status of such a language'. This quote beyond reasonable doubt shows that the non-availability of the developed written forms of the mother tongue languages militates against the mother tongue being the medium of instruction in South African schools. Regardless of the fact that the mother tongue can be used effectively as communication media during conversations taking place between two people, during cultural practices, and other events of this level, its application in presentation of ideas in academic or scholarly context cannot be functional (Alex Foley. n.d). Therefore this fact renders the adoption of the mother tongue instruction impracticable, in so far as the available standard written forms of these mother tongues sometimes differ from the actual dialects spoken by the aborigines.

Consequently, the administration of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction would reduce the international relations in South African schools. Taking the case of a tertiary education institution e.g. a university into consideration, in this case such an institution with a vast population encompasses students from different countries needs to make use of a medium of instruction comprehensible by not only South African students but also the international students at large. If any medium of instruction contrary to this is applied, there will be little or no interactions between the lecturers and the international student or at large the number of international student enrolled in such a university will diminish as a result of lack of understanding.

In light of the arguments presented in the paragraphs above, the application of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction would have more detrimental effects than it would beneficial ones. Therefore, it is the logical thing to have the new ways on how to improve the current method used in teaching in South-African schools in the mainstream of the debate, rather than having lots of efforts and resources wasted on issue which would add no value to the quality of the South African education system.
mussy 5 / 17 1  
Mar 17, 2013   #2
Wow, you have presented awesome points in your writeup.I will research for what I will present though. I have not seen anything bad with what you've presented.

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