Advancing inclusion: The heart of who we are

21 February is one of the days we look forward to every year as the Language Working Group (LWG) because it is a celebration speaking the language(s) you grew up with. Our goals for a more inclusive and multilingual academic space lines up with those of UNESCO and their observance of International Mother Language Day. They are committed to leaving no one behind and believe that this can be done through a focus on language and multilingualism.

Since February is also the month of love, the LWG members wanted to share our personal language stories to show that inclusion and a love for language really is at the heart of what we do and who we are.

These three questions were posed to each of my colleagues. Here is what they said:

1. How and/or when did you become interested in language work?
2. What is your greatest dream for language at CPUT, regardless of how impossible it seems?
3. Do you have a message for CPUT students regarding language? 

Lizel Hudson
Coordinator: Work-Integrated Learning and Language since 2018
Faculty of Health and Wellness Sciences

Why language?
My interest in language support and academic language development was sparked when I started my lecturing career in 2016. As an Afrikaans speaker with a rural background, I could relate to students for whom English was not their first language, even more so when they were asked to write ‘Academic English’. As I developed my own English speaking and writing abilities, it came natural to pass my discoveries and understandings on to my students.

My dream for CPUT
Firstly, I would like students to feel comfortable enough to ask any content or concept to be repeated in a language that they are comfortable with…I say repeated because they will hear and apply the concept in a very ‘English-driven’ world of work.

Secondly, I would like staff (academic, admin and support) to assist students in language(s) that they are comfortable with. I think such a dialogue will break barriers and misconceptions about language, and more specifically the academic and scholarly use of language. I want both staff and students to feel that their ‘voice’ counts – no cliché intended.

My message for CPUT
Be brave enough to ask that something can be repeated in a language that you can relate to. The penny will drop if you can relate what seems to be a foreign concept to something that you already know, because believe me, you enter our classroom doors with a wealth of knowledge! Help us to help you make connections with what you already know, to what you need to learn to become an efficient professional.

Linda Manashe
Courseware developer since 2011
Centre for Innovative Educational Technologies (CIET)

Why language?
I first did language work in 2012 when my office started the Online Multilingual Glossaries project, which became a beautiful collaboration with the Language Unit in Fundani (CHED) the following year – 2013. CIET and Fundani have worked together to create 15 verified online multilingual glossaries. These glossaries cover various academic study fields across CPUT faculties to provide translated and verified academic concepts and terminologies in Afrikaans English and isiXhosa languages.

My dream for CPUT
My greatest dream for language at CPUT is the realisation of the students’ right in choosing their language of instruction, and the actual provision of those language resources and relative language services, especially to students for whom English is not a first language.

My message for CPUT
I wish all students of CPUT to embrace their different languages, invest in their mother tongues, learn from and empower each other through the diverse languages in our student community. 

Ignatius Khan Ticha
Coordinator: Language since 2015
Faculty of Applied Sciences

Why language?
All of my education has been in English Studies which led me to language work in higher education.  While teaching academic literacy skills in English, I have always found the need to create space for the teaching and learning to happen in languages other than just English, that is, the need for multilingualism. I have found that there are ways to do this even when you master just the basics of languages that students speak (other than English) and so I continue to derive great joy in coordinating initiatives that promote this multilingual vision and offer support to staff and students in that respect. Also, when I first joined CPUT, I sought to take a course in isiXhosa but could not find one on campus. It is my desire to continue doing the work I do to ensure that new colleagues joining my Faculty do not find themselves in the position I was some 12 years ago – wanting to learn a language that would have added value to my practice but not having that opportunity afforded to me.    

My dream for CPUT
That someday, all students and all new staff who do not speak isiXhosa and Afrikaans would be required to take a course in these languages, at least at a basic conversational level as part of their induction into the university community. 

My message for CPUT
That they should read the institutional language policy and national language policies and guidelines to understand their language rights and to seek the respect of these rights – even at a basic level. 

Nomxolisi Jantjies
Language Specialist since 2016
Language Unit, Fundani CHED

Why language?
At university and this is where I learned that language is more than just a means of communication. It is closely tied to who we are and how we would like to be perceived by others. Also, our (South African) history has taught us that language can be used misused as an exclusionary tool from socio-economic activity. This has largely influenced my decision to remain in a language-related field. My work background has always involved languages and contributing to the development of South African languages as languages for learning and teaching.

My dream for CPUT
Seeing all South African languages enjoying the same status at the institution.

My message for CPUT
Learn a new language. Adding a language to your repertoire is always an advantage.

Ayesha Reiners
Engineering Communications Lecturer,
Coordinator: Level 1, Language, and Transformation since 2016
Faculty of Engineering

Why language?
I was raised in a multilingual home. The rich culture and diversity of language in our home gave me an identity that is priceless. I soon became aware that language was (and is)  a social tool. As a young adult, I became very aware that language was much more than Communication. It was also strongly related to identity and power.

I was an  avid reader and this introduced me to the multilingual and multicultural nature of language. Reading took me to different places. It moved me out of the narrow context of the Apartheid regime of that time. This curiosity and incite led  me to study Arts with a focus on language and literacy at University. The central role of language in everything we do is something I will always advocate.

My dream for CPUT
My wish is that language is not seen as a deficit to learning, but as a rich tool for engagement and agency. In addition  that all languages be respected and appreciated for the rich culture it comes from. When we hear our own language being spoken, it gives us an undeniable feeling of belonging and comfort. My dream is that all role players at CPUT can communicate in many different languages so that we create a safe, nurturing environment for all.

My message for CPUT
Language is not only a key to communication, it is also a key to our identity. Be proud of who you are! And READ as much as you can!

Jane-Francis Afungmeyo Abongdia
Senior Lecturer
Acting Coordinator: Language since 2019
Faculty of Business Sciences

Why language?
I started as an English language teacher in 1997, then in 2007 I registered for my Honours in Linguistics at UWC and subsequently, my Masters. I finally obtained my PhD in 2013. Since then I have been teaching linguistic courses and communication studies while supervising Masters and Ph.D. students.

My dream for CPUT
I am hoping to host an international conference in 2021 where academics will have the opportunity to present and publish their articles in DHET accredited journals.

My message for CPUT
Language is important in all that you do as students. It defines who you are and where you come from.

Alexa Anthonie
Language Specialist since 2019
Fundani CHED

Why language?
My earliest memory of my commitment to language – that it offered me beauty and an escape – was the night before my Matric Biology paper. Instead of studying biology, I was drawn to my prescribed textbook for English, The Great Gatsby. I pulled an all-nighter finishing that instead of studying for my exam! It showed a terrible lack of discipline (Don’t try this at home!), but it definitely showed me that I needed to make a life, a living, in words. I pursued degrees in Linguistics and worked in publishing before finding my way back to academia. Today I’m living my best life as a language professional and activist for language inclusion and language pride.

My dream for CPUT
I would love to see technology advance to the stage where diverse language speakers can be in a lecture hall and speak to the lecturer and each other in the language(s) they are most comfortable with and be instantly understood by everyone. Now there’s a challenge for all CPUT engineers!

My message for CPUT
A little bit goes a long way. Fluency in a language is great and should be strived for, but if “Ndiyayizithanda inwele zakho!” (I like your hair!) or “Jy lyk fantasties!” (You look great!) are all you can manage, then say it, and say it with pride!

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