Banking on language to learn more

Dr Ignatius Ticha, language coordinator for the Applied Science Faculty, is experimenting with a different approach to multi-lingual teaching.

During Science Communication 1 classes he tasks a particular student to act as a language banker. Students are encouraged to use their home language if they do not know a particular English term and the word banker notes it and then finds the appropriate translation and explanation.

Ticha says this is a different process to the formation of the online multilingual glossaries which takes place in a formal forum incorporating input from students, lecturers and language experts.

This ongoing process of working with multi-lingual terms and explanations in the classroom was recently ameliorated with a poster exhibition assignment.

For the Science Communication 1 module taught by Dr Ticha and embedded in Prof Muhammad Nakhooda’s Immunology course the students created posters about indigenous remedies and then presented them to classmates, explaining how the remedies worked before presenting an exhibition of their posters to the Faculty in the week of Heritage Day.

The exhibition theme was Our Heritage, Our Health, Our Medicines and there were two components.

“The first was the presentation of their posters in class and students from the Film & Media Studies came and recorded their presentations,” said Ticha.

The students presented in groups of five, producing all manner of samples, some of which their classmates did not recognise at all.

The second component was the exhibition where the video of the classroom presentations was screened.

A key component of creating and presenting the posters was allowing the students to use multiple languages.

“We had students presenting part of their work in Kiswahili, which was quite interesting. We also had students presenting in Lingala which is the Congolese language, in French, and a lot of the students presented their work in isiXhosa and Tsonga, but also in English because the intention is to create a multi-lingual space.”

During the presentations in class the language banker had to write fast to note down indigenous names of herbs and the students engaged in vigorous debate.

“There was so much passion around some of the things that were presented. One of the things that came out for us was the debate around the divide between superstition and science.”

“What we are trying to do with this project is our own contribution towards the decolonisation of education because these home remedies are forms of indigenous knowledge that students bring with them,” said Ticha.

Written by Theresa Smith

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