Original Research

Translanguaging in a Northern Sotho classroom: A case study of Khelobedu-speaking learners and their teachers in the Foundation Phase in Mopani District

Tsebo Ramothwala, Itani P. Mandende, Madoda Cekiso
Literator | Vol 43, No 1 | a1856 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v43i1.1856 | © 2022 Tsebo Ramothwala, Itani P. Mandende, Madoda Cekiso | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 December 2021 | Published: 18 November 2022

About the author(s)

Tsebo Ramothwala, Department of Information and Communication Technology, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Itani P. Mandende, Department of Information and Communication Technology, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Madoda Cekiso, Department of Information and Communication Technology, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria,, South Africa


Previous research has established that translanguaging can be utilised as a resource for bilingual or multilingual children to accomplish specific communicative goals. However, translanguaging in South African classrooms is presently not generally accepted as a legitimate classroom strategy by Curriculum specialists, nor has it been sanctioned in teacher training. Therefore, teachers in Bolobedu are not really at liberty to use the local language, Khelobedu, in the classroom despite didactic benefits associated with using the local language as a medium of instruction. This study aimed to explore the cases of translanguaging in a Northern Sotho classroom by teachers and Khelobedu-speaking learners. In exploring such, the study aimed to investigate the extent to which translanguaging was used in the Foundation Phase classrooms and, the didactic consequences of such practice in the classrooms in Motupa circuit. The study utilised a case study design with quantitative and qualitative components. A purposive sample of four Foundation Phase Northern Sotho teachers and 129 learners was used to collect data. Four classroom observations were conducted at one selected primary school in [blinded] District and content analysis was used to analyse data. The findings of this study indicated that translanguaging is widely used by Northern Sotho Foundation Fhase teachers and considered successful in minimizing learners’ miscomprehension of the lesson. Furthermore, the study revealed that also learners employed translanguaging in the Northern Sotho classrooms. Learners were found to enjoy lessons and were actively involved throughout the activities that were performed in class when translanguaging was used.

Contribution: The most outstanding feature of this article is that it makes a plea to those responsible for language policy formulation in South Africa that mother tongue instruction is a right even for those learners who do not speak standard languages. The article reveals the challenges faced by Khelobedu Foundation Phase learners who do not learn in their mother tongue but are forced by the South African Language in Education Policy which dictates the language used in disseminating knowledge in schools. This article further posits that translanguaging is a suitable teaching strategy for a multilingual country like South Africa and should therefore be placed at the centre of classroom practice in South Africa.


translanguaging; multilingualism; teaching strategy; Khelobedu; Northern Sotho; Foundation Phase; LoLT


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Crossref Citations

1. Careers in languages: Awareness by Grade 12 Tshivenḓa learners in Thembisa, Gauteng
Patricia T. Mphaphuli, Itani P. Mandende, Mashudu C. Mashige
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doi: 10.4102/lit.v45i1.1965