Ethno-linguistically diverse South African students' writing

  • Verbra Frances Pfeiffer University of Stellenbosch
  • Christa van der Walt Stellenbosch University
Keywords: academic literacy, multilingual writing, biliteracy, translanguaging.


One of the major challenges for designers of academic literacy programmes is to accommodate culturally and linguistically diverse student groups. This longitudinal study was conducted with pre-service teachers at Stellenbosch University to determine their understanding of the importance of good writing and ways in which they can use translanguaging to assist them in their writing. This study has also been viewed against the backdrop of multilingualism in South Africa, with the notion of socio-cognitive processes and its influence on the students’ ability to write. The aim of this study was to explore what students regard as good writing and to identify the kinds of strategies that multilingual students use when they write extended texts. When pondering on the holistic view of the findings, this study endorses the use of home languages in the educational practice of academic writing, but with particular caveats. The findings reveal that academic writing entails more than mere grammatical correctness on a surface level, but also involves taking cognisance of the second language learners’ background and way of implementing mental structures derived from their home language.

Author Biographies

Verbra Frances Pfeiffer, University of Stellenbosch
Verbra Pfeiffer is a research associate in the Curriculum Studies Department at Stellenbosch University. She has been a second and foreign language educator for eighteen years and taught English at every grade level ranging from preschool to university including language centres. Her research interests include academic literacy pedagogy, academic writing, second language advocacy and literature-based language pedagogy.Email:
Christa van der Walt, Stellenbosch University
Christa van der Walt is a professor and NRF-rated researcher in the Department of Curriculum Studies at Stellenbosch University. Her field of expertise is multilingual higher education. She is the author and co-author of multiple books, amongst others the sole-authored book Multilingual Higher Education: Beyond English-medium Orientations, published in 2013 by Multilingual Matters. Email: