Multilingual writing pedagogy for African languages in the monolingual education setting: literacy development for multilingual children in Rwanda (Grades 1-3)
Amini Ngabonziza, Jean De Dieu.
MetadataShow full item record
This study investigates multilingual literacy practices in Rwanda. It first assesses selected writings produced by young children whose L1 is Oluchiga while learning writing skills in Kinyarwanda (L2) in Grade 1 to Grade 3. This assessment of writing specimens aimed at identifying morphosyntactic intrusion from the L1 to the L2. Secondly, the study examined the local teachers‘ literacy pedagogy practices while teaching writing in Kinyarwanda to native speakers of Oluchiga in lower primary (Grades 1-3). This consisted of the analysis of teaching practices and attitudes towards L2 and L1. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews, classroom observations and a corpus of the learners‘ writing. The data collection and analysis was informed by the mixed method of combining qualitative and quantitative methods. The quantitative data collection consisted of compiling a corpus of 109 texts of learners‘ past writing exercises. This helped to determine the L1 influence on L2 writing through morphosyntactic analysis. The qualitative data were collected using both semi-structured interviews and classroom observations. The semi-structured interviews were conducted with grades 1-3 learners and their literacy teachers to understand their attitudes towards Oluchiga (L1) and Kinyarwanda (L2). The interviews with teachers helped also to explore the teachers‘ own views on how they use literacy pedagogy strategies to cope with the disparity between the multilingual realities on the ground and the monolingual educational policy in Rwanda (grades 1 to 3). The findings of this study show that local literacy teachers adopted multilingual approaches to teaching writing in Kinyarwanda (L2) to learners speaking Oluchiga (L1), regardless of the national policy of a monolingual teaching approach. The findings of this study are twofold: on the one hand, the results of the theoretical linguistic findings revealed the types of transfer errors from L1 to L2 and consequently the L1 influence on the L2, both negative and positive. The types of transfer errors identified in this study are (1) concordial agreement errors (affixes, noun class markers, adjectives and demonstrative markers); (2) errors in the agglutinative structure of words (augment and phonological transfer errors); and (3) lexical transfer errors. The analysis of the findings revealed the influence of the L1 on L2 writing in terms of concordial agreement of sentences and agglutinative structure of words. The concordial agreement patterns are violations of the subject-verb-object agreement and transfer errors of tense markers (affixes determining future and present tense). It was found that learners, by retaining L1 structure (in some instances) and by substitution of consonants /k/ for /c/ and /s/ for /ʃ/, violated the Kinyarwanda agglutinative structure of words as a result of L1 influence on L2. These results were discussed in the light of cross-linguistic influence and supported the prediction of the Typological Primacy Model (TPM). The results of this study showed positive and negative transfer errors as predicted by TPM. The occurrence of negative and positive transfer was explained as the result of the linguistic closeness of L1 and L2 (in this study, similar morphosyntactic or lexical structures between L1 and L2). The findings of this study do not support the CEM prediction that there are only positive transfer errors from L1 to L2. The findings on the influence of Oluchiga (L1) on Kinyarwanda writing (L2) were discussed in terms of the possibility that language acquisition is not cumulative as predicted by CEM. It is possible that languages in contact are in continuum and influence each other during learning and actual communication. This was also argued in the applied linguistics findings of this study. On the other hand, the applied linguistics findings showed that local literacy teachers explored the influence of L1 on L2 writing as a language teaching approach that bridges the transition between home language and school language. That approach was termed the multilingual proximity teaching method in this study and it consists of teaching L2 by explaining to learners the similarities and differences between L1 and L2. This approach was argued to be multilingual because it allows the use of two languages in the classroom. In addition, the local literacy teachers who were observed reported using translanguaging approaches such as multimodality, even though they reported that they are not confident that they are doing the right thing. The study concludes with advocacy for multilingualism in education in Rwanda.