Assessment of multilingual children in South Africa
Frenette Southwood and Helena Oosthuizen from Stellenbosch University in South Africa will join us on the last Clinical Forum of the year to tell us about assessment of multilingual children in South Africa.
Legislatively, South Africa is the most multilingual country in the world. It has 11 official languages, but many other languages – notably heritage and immigrant languages – are also widely spoken. Although English is the country’s lingua franca and the dominant language in the domains of trade and industry, science and technology, politics, and education, many South Africans have limited proficiency in English, despite most of them (in theory, at least) having been educated for at least eight of their school years through medium of English only.
By contrast, the vast majority of South African speech-language therapists are either monolingual speakers of English or are Afrikaans-English bilinguals, and have good proficiency in English but limited or no proficiency in the widely spoken indigenous African languages. In general, speech-language therapists’ practices remain a poor reflection of the multilingual and multicultural realities of the South African population. Furthermore, the African languages spoken in South Africa are under-researched: Child language developmental norms, grammatical descriptions, and assessment and intervention materials are either absent or highly limited for these languages.
The situation described above poses severe challenges for practising speech-language therapists and other child language professionals. This talk provides the context in which child language assessment and intervention in South Africa take place and briefly describes the attempts made to meet these challenges.