Mandarin in Mzansi

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has signed off on plans to introduce Mandarin as a second additional language in the South African education curriculum.

The South African Department of Basic Education (DBE) announced this week that Mandarin will be introduced into the South African curriculum.

Scholars in Grades 4 to 12 will have the option of taking Mandarin as a second language option as from January next year.

Plans to introduce the language started last year when Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga signed an implementation plan to strenthen educational ties between the Ministry of Education in China and the DBE at an institutional and policy level.

Over the years South Africa and China have joined together and signed several strategic agreements that aim to strengthen bilateral relations, trade co-operation and create sustainable investment. China is also one of South Africa’s top tading partners.

Not a replacement for existing languages

Motshekga’s spokesperson, Troy Martens told Wits Vuvuzela that the introduction of mandarin is part of a language and cultural exchange between the two countries.

Although the DBE says that the implementation plans were still being finalised, Mandarin will be available to scholars in a select number of schools around South Africa from 2016.

Mandarin will join the likes German, Serbian, Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, Tamil, Telegu and Urdu, as alternative language options for students.

“It must be emphasised that this is not a replacement for any of the existing languges offered. It is a second additional language option,” Martens said

Trish Cooper, course coordinator at the Wits Language School (WLS), said “[Mandarin] is an exceptionally difficult language to learn. It takes about 600 to 800 hours to learn a European language whereas it takes more than 2000 hours for Mandarin.”

“My concern is that kids are already coming out of school with little mother tongue competence. Which makes it difficult to transfer the necessary skills into a second language,” said Cooper.

Although acknowledging the importance of Mandarin for business reasons, Cooper adds that she believes that African languages and culture need to be promoted more and should come first.

So you think you can sign?

I CAN SIGN: Wits Language School are hosting  “So you think you can sign” a song-sign translation competition as part of  Deaf Awareness Month ending September 30th. Lecturer Lucas Magongwa demonstrates good sign technique at the deaf awareness display on Tuesday afternoon at Education campus.  Photo: Palesa Radebe

I CAN SIGN: Wits Language School are hosting “So you think you can sign” a song-sign translation competition as part of Deaf Awareness Month ending September 30th. Lecturer Lucas Magongwa demonstrates good sign technique at the deaf awareness display on Tuesday afternoon at Education campus. Photo: Palesa Radebe

Less than two weeks remain to enter the second season of So You Think You Can Sign, the South Africa Sign Language (SASL) song translation competition.

This year’s theme for Deaf Awareness Month is “equality for deaf people”. The competition is part of a campaign to raise awareness of deafness and to encourage deaf and hearing people to work together.

The closing date for the competition is Monday, September 23 at 12pm.

The competition involves translating any song performed in English to SASL and recording yourself. You then submit your video for judging by a panel of hearing and deaf judges who can sign.

Entrants can choose any song they want as long as it is in English and doesn’t have any vulgar or discriminatory lyrics.

Lucas Magongwa, lecturer and coordinator of deaf education programmes at the Wits Centre for Deaf Studies, said: “Entrants will be judged on the use of facial expressions and emotions as well as their choreography and movement.”

Other judging criteria include the quality of the signing, the use of SASL as opposed to signed English, and including subtitles in your video.

Anyone in the country, whether they’re hearing or deaf, can enter So You Think You Can Sign and entries are open to individual and group performances.

Winners of the competition will receive R5 000 and a feature on SABC3’s Deaf TV, as well as a trophy and a Wits Language School certificate of recognition. The first and second runners up as well as the winner of the public vote will receive R1 000 and certificates.

“This is a great way to make our students aware,” Magongwa said, adding that many people don’t know how difficult it is for deaf students to get into university. Wits has only four deaf students at the moment.

“Wits has really good interpreters but no one to teach,”Magongwa  said.  [pullquote align=”right”]”Wits has really good interpreters but no one to teach”[/pullquote]

The Wits Language School and the Centre for Deaf Studies have set up an information stand outside the library on education campus to get the message about equality for deaf people out this year.

Students can go there to get information on the history of deaf movements around the world, the sign language course and activities around Deaf Awareness Month. There is also the opportunity for students to learn a few words in SASL at the stands.

The Wits Language School is hosting the competition and it started in August. This is the second year running for So You Think You Can Sign.


Wits Vuvuzela: Hearing the deaf September 12, 2013.


So you think you can sign?

AS THE world commemorates Deaf Awareness month, the Wits Language School (WLS) has taken the awareness campaign up a notch by introducing a competition So You Think You Can Sign.

The competition is the brain child of Dr Kim Wallmach, senior lecturer and coordinator in Translation and Interpreting at the WLS, and Ayesha Ramjugernath, who teaches South African Sign Language (SASL) at Wits.

Wallmach said the purpose of the competition was raise awareness to the fact that deaf people need interpreters to communicate. “Imagine not ever being able to listen to the news,” she said.

“There are more than 600 000 deaf people in South Africa and not enough people to interpret sign language.”

Wallmach said anyone in South Africa, including schools, was welcome to enter and the deadline is the September 17th.

“People can enter in any size of group, but if the majority of group members are deaf there will be bonus points. We are trying to encourage deaf and hearing people to collaborate.”

Executive Director for the South African Translators’ Institute, Marion Boers said Deaf Awareness Month was a very valuable initiative to raise the profile of both the needs of the deaf community and the availability of persons with the necessary skills to assist them to lead a full life.

The Department of SASL will be providing a free introductory SASL class on Fridays from 2:30pm to 4pm on September 21 and 28.

Click here to see a professional interpreter’s entry to So You Think You Can Sign.