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Auteur: Agatha VAN GINKEL

How to transfer reading from 'the other tongue' to 'the mother tongue'; the teacher's challenge

Abstract/Résumé: Most countries in Africa are multilingual, featuring between 5 and 400 living languages within their borders. Because of this multiplicity of languages, the language policies of these countries generally recognize local, regional and national or official languages. Nowadays, more African languages are being developed in written form, and they are used in primary school. While this new opportunity for using their own language in school gives children access to the content of the curriculum and allows them the chance to become truly multilingual, it also poses some challenges for classroom teachers. When mother tongue-based multilingual education is introduced in the schools in their community, the teachers themselves need to learn to read and write in their mother tongue before they can teach children to do so. Yet transferring their literacy skills from the national language to their own African language turns out to be more challenging than they had thought it would be. This paper presents a case study from Kenya that shows why the transfer of reading skills from the national language (English) to a mother tongue (Sabaot) can be a challenge. The research used a qualitative mode of inquiry to explore what could be factors that contribute to transfer reading from the language of wider communication to the first language. Factors that influence transfer reading are context related, such as the linguistic context, physical context, socio-cultural context, and the economic context. At the same time the different aspects of reading and learning influence transfer reading, such as: transfer reading skills and strategies, orthographic items, reading fluency, and a theory of learning. Within these factors different aspects play a role in transfer reading. It seems to depend on the context which aspects play a more prominent role and have to be given a more attention in the development of a transfer reading methodology. This paper shows how studying the linguistic context, the literacy context, the sociolinguistic context, and the physical and economical context led to a set of principles that guided the development of the transfer reading methodology suitable for the Sabaot people. At the same time it proposes a contextual framework for developing guidelines for a transfer reading methodology for other, each unique reading transfer context. Based on this research it can be concluded that reading transfer is different from the language of wider communication to first language transfer reading than transfer reading from the first language to second language. It shows that this is an area that needs its own attention, and cannot just be assumed.