A national multilingual resource for higher education developed at UP

Posted on August 27, 2018

The Department of African Languages and the Unit for Academic Literacy at the University of Pretoria (UP), in collaboration with Prof Mbulungeni Madiba of the University of Cape Town have developed an Open Educational Resource Term Bank (OERTB).

Funded by a collaboration grant from the Department for Higher Education and Training, this is a free and reusable resource to allow students and lecturers to check meanings and definitions of words in other South African languages. This is in order to make learning and transferring knowledge easier for students and lecturers alike. This will improve linguistic competence and support learning in English with greater ease, while acknowledging the multilingual composition of UP’s student body.

According to Prof Adelia Carstens, Director of the Unit for Academic Literacy, “the OERTB is one of the tools that can be used to address the language challenges faced by many university students who are not mother-tongue speakers of English”.  She refers to the Soudien Report [1], which says that, “[T]here are unacceptably large numbers of students who are not successful academically because of the 'language problem'. They fail, not because of a lack of intelligence, but because they are unable to express their views in the dominant language of instruction”.

Prof Elsabé Taljard, professor in the Department of African Languages, explains that, “having access to terminology in one’s strongest language helps with unpacking the concept represented by the term. It also dispels the myth that the African languages do not have terminology that can be used in an academic context.”

Through the OERTB, students will get to know subject-specific terms in English that are high frequency terms at university although they might rarely be used in education before students get to university. These terms are not common in social uses of English. The terms in the term bank were extracted from study material and prescribed text books. The OERTB provides the term, a definition and in some cases an example of use. Additionally, students can find the equivalent terms and a translation of the definition in the following languages: Afrikaans, IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, SiSwati, IsiNdebele, Sesotho sa Leboa, Setswana, Sesotho, Tshivenda and XiTsonga. These terms are available in particular disciplines such as accounting, anthropology, augmented and alternative communication, building science, chemistry, communication pathology, criminology, economics, family medicine, literature, mathematics, philosophy, political science, psychology and sociology.

The OERTB allows user feedback so that he or she can comment on the quality of definitions, examples and translations. Users can also suggest better translations and definitions that they have developed themselves.

This OERTB is a national asset so start using this valuable resource today. You will find it at http://oertb.tlterm.com/.

[1] Reference: Ministerial Committee. 2008. Report of the Ministerial Committee on Transformation and Social Cohesion and the Elimination of Discrimination in Public Higher education Institutions. Pretoria: Department of Education.

- Author Shakira Hoosain

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