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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


OLIVIER, Jako. Come join the PUK: the use of English in honours programmes at an Afrikaans university campus of the NWU. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2014, vol.54, n.4, pp.610-634. ISSN 2224-7912.

The Potchefstroom Campus of North-West University (NWU) is historically associated with Afrikaans, but English is currently being used as medium of instruction for honours programmes on this particular campus of this trilingual university. As such the NWU acknowledges Afrikaans, English and Setswana as working languages in its language policy. The prominence of English at the Potchefstroom Campus and its value as a medium of instruction, however, had already been acknowledged in the University's year of inception in 1869 - initially as a school of theology. As time passed Dutch and eventually Afrikaans became more important at the institution. The university moved from a mainly Afrikaans character to an officially trilingual university with mainly Afrikaans and English as mediums of instruction after a merger in 2004 between the former Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education, the University of North-West and Sebokeng Campus of the Vista University as part of the government's attempts at integrating segregated higher education institutions. It is important to contextualise any discussion with regard to medium of instruction in terms of the benefits of mother-tongue education, it is clear that language transfer of skills can take place between a mother tongue and an additional language, the status of Afrikaans (as well as other South African languages) with regard to English and its hegemony in South Africa also informs this discussion. Relevant research with regard to bi- and multilingualism as well as the concept offunctional multilingualism also inform decisions made regarding medium of instruction. The outstanding bilingual skills of Afrikaans-speaking students seem to be relevant in this regard. Furthermore, existing national legislation and policies as well as the NWU's language policy should also be taken into account. In this regard, the use of English for honours programmes on the Potchefstroom Campus is allowed and the language policy specifically refers to the honours programmes where English can be utilised. However, the use of Afrikaans at this institution should be considered within the context of increased English usage throughout the higher education landscape in South Africa. The importance of Afrikaans as an academic language at higher education level is clear and is, despite some negative political rhetoric, still an important aspect of the ideals set out in the Constitution regarding multilingualism and the right to receive an education in a person 's mother tongue. The use of and need for English as a medium of instruction is a reality at this campus and needs to be recognised and managed. Language use can be facilitated in a classroom by means of single-medium, parallel-medium, double-medium or educational interpreting approaches. From an overview ofthe literature, especially pertaining to this higher education institution, educational interpreting approaches seem to be most relevant. However, some criticism against both these approaches in terms of teaching and learning time and especially two-way communication in terms of interpreting need to be explored and addressed. From an overview of the language distribution and preferences of the students it is clear that Afrikaans is still the most prominent language on campus. But a decline in the percentage of Afrikaans-speaking honours students is also evident. English is already used in a number of honours programmes as a medium of instruction. English is mainly used for the sake of accommodating individuals who do not have a proper command of Afrikaans or prefer not to be instructed in this language as well as perceived needs of the industry outside the university. This article recommends further research regarding English academic skills and educational interpreting, specifically from English into Afrikaans. With reference to interpreting, focus is also necessary regarding the facilitation of effective two-way communication in the interpreting process in a classroom.

Palabras clave : North-West University; PU for CHE; language policy; language planning; Afrikaans as medium of instruction; English as medium of instruction; double medium education; parallelmedium education; educational interpreting.

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