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Strategies of Developing Academic Discourses in African Languages in South African Higher Education

Hloniphani Ndebele


Published: 2023/12/01


This paper explores strategies of developing academic discourses in African languages in the South African higher education sector. Many scholars have emphasized the importance for the South African higher education sector to be contextually relevant and to value multilingualism in the learning process. Most students in South African higher education have African languages as their home languages, and it is in these languages that multiple literacies such as reading, critical thinking, meaning making, among other things, are embedded. Such literacies are critical in accessing disciplinary epistemologies. When language is used effectively within a specific discipline, it becomes part of the process of socialization into a particular disciplinary community through participating in its ways of meaning making. Consequently, when students are socialized into their disciplines, they learn how to communicate and conduct themselves in ways expected of their professions. The main argument of this paper is that embedding African languages in the different disciplinary discourses broadens the functional capacity of these languages, thus contributing to their intellectualization. Higher education institutions have a responsibility to create an environment that enables students to draw from their various languages to critically engage and construct knowledge in their disciplines. Keywords: Academic discourse, African languages, Epistemology, Higher education, South Africa

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