Multilingual Literacy Use and Acquisition in Linguistically Diverse Communities

Yonas M. Asfaha

Tilburg University, The Netherlands

TP163: Language policy and literacy

This paper combines results of a study that investigated language and literacy practice and literacy acquisition in a multilingual African country, Eritrea, where nine languages and three scripts are used in delivering elementary education to different communities. We look at the language policy that guaranteed the equality of the languages and their subsequent use in schools. The rationale behind the language policy and its provisions are then compared to the outcomes of a sociolinguistic survey and literacy skills study. The survey assessed uses of literacy and attitudes towards languages and scripts among 670 adults from the nine ethnolinguistic communities. A comparative quasi-experimental design compared reading and spelling results of 450 children in five languages and three scripts. The outcomes of the sociolinguistic survey and the classroom tests, together with a descriptive presentation of the language diversity and policy, set the stage for a thorough evaluation of the implementations of the multilingual education policy and the level of social support it gets. Discussions shed light on the practical implementations and theoretical implications of multilingual and multiscriptal educational programs in linguistically diverse communities.

Session: Themed Panel
Language policy and literacy
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 06