Multilingualism and the language curriculum in South Africa: contextualising French within the local language ecology

  • Karen Aline Françoise Ferreira-Meyers University of Swaziland University of Johannesburg (Senior Research Associate)
  • Fiona Horne University of the Witwatersrand
Keywords: French, Second Additional Language, South Africa, language market, multi- and plurilingualism


In this paper, we question the role of second additional language (that is, an optional, non-official language) teaching, with special reference to French at school level in South Africa. Over and above the fact that additional languages reflect minority cultures and communities (Greek, Serbian, Hebrew, etc.) we consider their real and potential place in the promotion of multilingualism. As revealed as part of a regional research project, sponsored by the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, entitled Curriculum, contextualisation et formation des enseignants (CCPFE-AUF-BOI-S0195COV0401), motivations for studying French in South Africa stem from the dual representation of its exoticism, constituting a form of “linguistic tourism”, as well as its potential usefulness in various professional contexts. We question whether the basis for this language market which plays out in an exolingual, formalised context can make a real claim to promoting multilingualism within the South African linguistic ecology. In this regard, we will examine ways in which a shift in perspective from an “additive” to an integrative and plurilingual conception of language acquisition is required to resituate the teaching/learning of French as an authentic form of social and linguistic construction in South Africa. Using a socio-constructive (Molinié 2011) and co-actional model (Melo-Pfeifer 2015; Thomas 2014, Mroz 2012) to teaching French, we explore ways in which language acquisition can be a collaborative, integrative process, taking into account multiple cultural and language resources.

Author Biographies

Karen Aline Françoise Ferreira-Meyers, University of Swaziland University of Johannesburg (Senior Research Associate)
Senior LecturerCoordinator Linguistics and Modern Languages
Fiona Horne, University of the Witwatersrand
Lecturer French