Multilingualism in classrooms is currently prompting debate and has significantly impacted on schooling in South Africa over the last decade. At present South African educators face the challenge of coping with and finding solutions to culturally and linguistically diverse urban school contexts that did not exist before. In many South African communities young learners, without any prior knowledge of English, are placed in English preschools. Preschool teachers have the demanding task of preparing these multilingual preschoolers for formal schooling in English, and, in addition, are pressurised by parents or caregivers who expect their children to be fluent in English by the time they enter primary school. A group of preschool teachers in a specific urban, multilingual preschool context expressed concern about multilingual preschool learners’ academic performances and their future, and requested advice and support. Consequently a need was identified for speech-language therapists to make their expertise available to multilingual preschool learners, as well as to their preschool teachers. To address this need, an exploratory, descriptive, contextual research design, incorporating the quantitative perspective, was selected to describe the specific educational context of multilingual preschools in the Pretoria Central Business District (CBD) and Sunnyside area. A descriptive survey was conducted and two survey techniques were employed to collect the data, namely a questionnaire and a test battery. The questionnaire was used to collect information from 32 teacher participants to investigate the needs and strengths of preschool teachers and multilingual preschool learners. The test battery was utilised to collect data on the language and communication proficiency in English of 30 learner participants. Results indicated that the teacher participants perceived certain personal challenges while supporting the preschool learners acquiring English as Language of Learning and Teaching (ELoLT). These teachers expressed a need for knowledge and support. They also reported that the multilingual preschool learners in the research context had to communicate in ELoLT despite it being an unfamiliar language. Some of the multilingual preschool learners displayed behaviours that could be indicative of negative influences on their self-esteem. The language and communication assessment revealed that many learner participants’ comprehension and expression in ELoLT were insufficient for learning and that they required support for academic success. In addition, the results support the claim that an integrated view of the multilingual learners’ communication abilities need to be established across contexts, by combining assessment strategies, such as naturalistic and structured assessment, as well as interdisciplinary perspectives. The results of the empirical research was used to propose a service delivery model for the acquisition of ELoLT in the research context. This proposed model may be an effective approach to provide supportive intervention to multilingual preschool learners with linguistic barriers to learning. In addition, initial stage intervention guidelines for the basic level ELoLT learner were offered in response to the needs of the specific community. These guidelines may provide a basis for the planning of intervention strategies to preschool teachers who were concerned about the education and future of multilingual preschool learners.
Thesis (DPhil (Communication Pathology))--University of Pretoria, 2007.