Original Research - Special Collection: Literacy in practice

Exploring views on praxis possibilities of multilingualism in university literacy pedagogies

Simbayi Yafele
Reading & Writing | Vol 15, No 1 | a451 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v15i1.451 | © 2024 Simbayi Yafele | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 September 2023 | Published: 24 May 2024

About the author(s)

Simbayi Yafele, Department of Languages, Cultural Studies and Applied Linguistics, Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: South African literacy-as-social-practice theoreticians, language-in-education experts, educational linguists, and language policies advocate multilingual pedagogies to acknowledge and cater to diverse multilingual learners’ literacy development. Universities purport multilingualism to provide for the multilingual norm, students’ literacy, and educational development, as scholarship shows that multilingualism benefits academia and literacy education. Yet, these universities remain locations for monolingual and epistemological biases. Concerns about such praxis pretensions in pluralistic literacy education and the failures in literacy-as-social-practice strategies have been raised. However, the perceptions of lecturers and students on their role in implementing desirable praxis in multilingual literacy education are under-researched.

Objectives: This qualitative study explores lecturers’ and students’ perceptions and their impact on practising linguistic plurality in literacy for educational development schemes.

Method: The research uses in-depth individual and focus-group interviews with four lecturers and four first-year undergraduate students at a selected linguistically diverse university. An interpretivist paradigm was applied consisting of participants’ subjective experiences as members of a higher education institution (HEI).

Results: Findings reveal that lecturers have difficulty coping with multiple languages due to inadequate training and misconceptions about multilingualism, and monolingual pedagogy perceptions carried over from their institutions whose culture denies students’ linguistic plurality.

Conclusion: The study demonstrates the importance of shifts in epistemological orientation and adequate training, focused on multilingualism, to develop versatile and agile lecturers equipped for multilingual universities.

Contribution: This research contributes to understanding the complex implementation problems regarding multilingual literacy education and possible solutions. It postulates new ways of forging multilingual literacy practices to erase praxis morbidity.


multilingualism; higher education; multilingual literacy pedagogies; perceptions; translanguaging; sociocultural perspectives.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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