n South African Journal of Higher Education - An analysis of a trilingual language policy's dominant skills discourse, theory of language(s) and teaching approaches for university policy

Volume 29, Issue 6
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



In a post-apartheid context requiring enabling policy frameworks to transform practices, the author draws from pertinent national documents, the research literature and theoretical frameworks to analyse and critique the Language Policy of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU 2009), Port Elizabeth, South Africa, for the presence/absence of discourses of literacies, theories of language(s) and teaching approaches. Her analysis shows that a limited skills discourse of literacies embodied in a theory of language as a transparent, autonomous and singular, whole bounded system of discrete elements predominates. This skills discourse conceptualises 'multilingual literacies' as additive sets of linguistic and cognitive 'skills' situated in individuals and in terms of 'functional' or 'situational', 'purposeful communication' and assimilationist 'academic socialisation' approaches to teaching. While the policy designers take up sociopolitical discourses inscribed in national policies, these and its situational approaches are decoupled from a discourse of 'multilingual literacies' as 'social practices'. The author, therefore, argues that the Language Policy (NMMU 2009) cannot enable critical academic literacy approaches and accord with its Guiding Principles 'to promote diversity' and 'be academically justifiable' and 'inclusive'. Moreover, she recommends that participants work meaningfully with each other to become critically aware of the discourses that they inhabit in order to enact more nuanced, comprehensive and integrated views of language(s), literacies and literacies pedagogy in policies and practices.

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