UP and Pennsylvania State University translate learning tool for children into three local languages

Posted on June 10, 2020

The University of Pretoria (UP) has collaborated with Pennsylvania State University to translate a global learning tool into local languages to support learners in how they think about content.

Professor Liesel Ebersöhn, Director of UP’s Centre for the Study of Resilience in the Faculty of Education, and her team worked with researchers from Pennsylvania State University’s College of Education to translate Inkhulumo – an adapted version of Quality Talk, which is an approach to conducting meaningful discussions – into three local languages.

“[Quality Talk] is used in the United States and China, and encourages critical thinking and analysis among children,” said Prof Ebersöhn. Inkhulumo is based on findings from a study conducted among researchers, teachers and learners in Mpumalanga. “We translated a user-friendly resource for families to use to direct critical learning into multiple South African languages including isiZulu, Sepedi and Afrikaans; the images [in the video] were adapted to be contextually relevant,” Prof Ebersöhn explained.

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that globally, schooling now occurs at home. “As parents and caregivers we are now the custodians of our children’s learning, and we are partnering with teachers to support children to learn to think about content.”

Each video shows parents and guardians how to start quality discussions during meals, walks or homework time. This is done in their home language. Parents take the lead by choosing a book, movie or photograph. The child needs time to understand the content before questions are posed.

The user-friendly video speaks about two main questions (test and authentic) that could be posed to children. Test questions are short and the answers are usually single words. They are not open to argument and debate. Examples were adapted to suit South African life, for example:

Question: Where did you go on your trip?

Answer: To Gogo

Question: When?

Answer: July

Authentic, open-ended questions, on the other hand, allow for multiple, plausible answers that tap into a child’s interests. The questions can be open to argument, debate and discussion as well as responses that can be elaborated on, for example:

Question: What was the best part of your trip?

Answer: Everything! I loved going to visit my grandmother and spending time with my cousins. 

We played different games and helped my grandmother collect wood for the fire. There is no electricity where she lives, so the fire helped to keep us warm after she cooked the food.

There are no shops nearby, so my grandmother has a small vegetable garden with some chickens.

At night, we all sat together and listened to the stories my grandmother told. Some stories were about her life and others were myths from the area. My grandmother is such a kind person; I love being with her.

The video explains that authentic questions elicit better answers, which lead to rich discussion, and encourages parents and children to write about the text, and to jot down authentic questions and test questions. Authentic questions entail add-ons, for example:

Why do you think that? (reason)

How do you know that? (evidence)

This helps with reasoning and robust discussion.

“We are so happy to be able to share this and hope it has utility for parents and caregivers,” Prof Ebersöhn said. The resource has been taken up by the Indigenous Languages Action Forum and has been posted on the South African Association for Language Teaching website in the form of a blog. UP students taking a communications course are using this as a ClickUP (online) resource.

Please follow the links below to access the resource in English, IsiZulu, Sepedi or Afrikaans.

- Author Primarashni Gower

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