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Publisher Description

From a medical perspective, patients prefer information in their own language, but in Africa the development of such technical language has been neglected. In Zimbabwe, clinical information in ChiShona involves inexact terminology, switching language during speech, i.e. code-switching, and inaccurate examples, whereas in English the information given can be as specific and detailed as the patient wants or understands. Most citizens do not speak English as their first language and may not be able to express adequately their illness experience. On the other hand, most health professionals lack the terminology in their African language for the information being delivered, mainly because technical knowledge develops through formal school education in English rather than through the home African language. (1) So both communities would benefit from the development of the language. The use of mother tongue as the medium of instruction at secondary and tertiary level is widely debated. Many students and their teachers translate between English and mother tongue, with varying degrees of success. (2) Students are under pressure to learn to think and explain themselves in English, failure of which is seen as a barrier to accomplishment at the international level. However, students feel they would learn faster if some technical information was available in their mother tongue or some explanations and examples used local sources. Strong evidence supports accelerated learning when mother-tongue language is used alongside the language of learning. (3,4) In addition, exclusive use of a dominant language stunts the growth and elaboration of lower level languages. Using the language in class as a dual language, through secondary and tertiary learning, has been identified as a way of bringing it into high-level contact with concepts in the dominant language, thus accelerating the development of its vocabulary. (5,6)

Health & Well-Being
March 1
South African Medical Association

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