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Re: multilingual literacy

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  • Don Osborn
    Hello Gertrude and welcome to the group. Although there are at least a few others on the list who can give better answers, let me take a first stab at it. At
    Message 1 of 2 , May 26, 2005
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      Hello Gertrude and welcome to the group.

      Although there are at least a few others on the list who can give
      better answers, let me take a first stab at it.

      At its simplest, multilingual literacy is literacy in more than one
      language. Not to be taken for granted even among speakers of multiple
      languages who have learned to read. This topic first interested me when
      as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo many years ago I saw a well educated
      Togolese sounding out aloud a sentence printed in his native Ewe (Eve)
      language. Over the years, hearing people in other parts of West Africa
      saying they "couldn't read" (or write!) their maternal language(s) and
      noting that in some places people would write notes in their language
      using the Arabic script (Ajami), it became clear that literacy is not
      always so simple a matter. Indeed, when saying x% of a population in a
      multilingual (and maybe multiscript) society is literate, what is being
      said and what is being left out?

      This issue of course concerns many world regions other than West
      Africa, and it seemed to be important to highlight it in the latest UN
      Literacy Decade. Hence this group...

      The answers to the question are not as simple as they might seem. The
      issue relates to sociolinguistics, aspects of multilingualism /
      bilingualism, education, definitions of literacy, and language &
      educational policies. But the question seems timely as there are
      researchers looking at it. In addition there is increased interest in
      the related area of multilingual / bilingual education.

      You ask in particular about the role of education. On the face of it,
      that role would be fundamental. In the case of the Togolese I
      mentioned, he had been schooled only in a second/additional language -
      French (the official language of the country) - and had apparently
      never encountered a text in Ewe, even though these exist. The schools
      there not only taught one language, but effectively one phonetic/sound
      system. The Ewe orthography uses the Latin alphabet, but with some
      letters pronounced differently than in French, and also with a few
      modified letters (all I believe in IPA) to represent sounds not used or
      significant in West European languages. "Multilingual literacy" was not
      a concern, until one began to consider additional language instruction
      of English, German, etc. as subjects.

      Education of course may include adult education (sometimes "adult basic
      education" [ABE]), and indeed many literacy programs target adults.

      Hope this helps and that others will add their thoughts. (BTW, if you
      haven't already browsed the archives, there may be some items of
      interest to you there).

      Don Osborn

      --- In Multilingual_Literacy@yahoogroups.com, "gertrudelevitt"
      <gertrudelevitt@y...> wrote:
      > Hi everyone. I'm glad to be a member of your group. I am an M.A.
      > student in Education doing a course in literacy. I have not heard of
      > multilingual literacy and am keen to learn more about it. I would be
      > very pleased to receive replies on these two questions. What is
      > multilingual literacy and what role does education play in developing
      > multilingual literacy? I look forward to being enlightened as I am
      > very interested in language and literacy. Many thanks, Gertrude
      > Levitt
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