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‘Languages don’t have bones, so you can just break them’: rethinking multilingualism in education policy and practice in Africa

Reilly, Colin and Bagwasi, Mompoloki M and Costley, Tracey and Gibson, Hannah and Kula, Nancy C and Mapunda, Gastor and Mwansa, Joseph (2022) '‘Languages don’t have bones, so you can just break them’: rethinking multilingualism in education policy and practice in Africa.' Journal of the British Academy, 10 (s4). pp. 1-20. ISSN 2052-7217

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Multilingualism is widespread amongst individuals and communities in African countries. However, language-in-education policies across the continent continue to privilege monolingual approaches to language use in the classroom. In this paper we highlight the colonial origins of these monolingual ideologies and discuss the detrimental effects which arise when learners’ linguistic repertoires are not welcomed within the education system. We draw attention to major themes within education across a range of contexts: policy vagueness, teachers as policy implementers, and the creation and imposition of boundaries. We advocate for a language-in-education approach which brings the outside in, which welcomes individuals’ lived multilingual realities and which values these as resources for learning. We highlight the ways in which translanguaging could represent a positive shift to the way in which multilingual language practices are talked about, and can contribute to decolonising language policy in African contexts. We conclude by calling to action those working on education and policy to ensure that learners and teachers are better supported. We call ultimately for a rethinking of multilingualism.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: multilingualism; translanguaging; access; language policy; language-supportive pedagogies; Africa
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Language and Linguistics, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2022 10:35
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2022 10:35

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