The Use of Lingála in the Teaching of Chemistry in DR Congo: A Socio-terminological Approach

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Our research focuses on the use of Lingála as a vehicular language for the teaching of chemistry in the city of Kinshasa, the capital of DR Congo. Lingála, one of the four national languages (i.e., Kikongo, Kiswahili, Lingála, and Cilubà) of Congo, is the most widespread language of daily communication in Kinshasa, the capital of the country, a city with an estimated population of 9 million inhabitants. Lingála is also the language most used in Congolese music, theatre, movies, radio and TV. For these reasons among others, Lingála has been spreading much more rapidly than its national counterparts (i.e., Kikongo, Kiswahili, and Cilubà).

In this paper we strive to explore the second path. We argue that the use of the students’ daily language as the language of instruction is a didactic approach which would allow them to better appropriate the knowledge taught at school. This is especially true, we argue, when it comes to the sciences. However, Lingála speakers often have themselves a negative attitude towards that language and its possibilities.

This paper is a contribution to code elaboration aiming to empower African languages. It describes a way to coin chemistry terms in Lingála and to make them available to the teachers and students of secondary schools. In the last part of the paper we analyze the users’ attitudes vis-à-vis the presence of Lingála in a school text. What this paper strives to prove, along with a few other publications on African languages (CELTA 1995-2000, BAKITA 1972-2004, TAMA 2003, Bamgbose 1984), is that : (1) it is relatively easy to coin relevant terms for any scientific or technical field; (2) it is important and beneficial to foster the importance of such coinage in the target language and improve the users’ positive attitude towards it ; and (3) it is essential to enlist the commitment of the target language’s speakers to pursue this type of work and to use the resulting terms once they have been developed. It also argues that terminology work plays an important role in reinforcing positive attitudes towards the use of African languages in the school system.

Discussion and analysis in this paper are structured as follows: Section (2) presents a sociolinguistic overview of language practices in Kinshasa schools. Section (3) discusses different cohabiting varieties of Lingála, focusing on some registers of the variety spoken in the city of Kinshasa. Based on a 2008-2011 survey, Section (4) examines the register used by Kinshasa teachers in chemistry lessons. Section (5) explains the methodology we have adopted for coining chemical terms in Lingála and the results thereof. Section (6) outlines the methodology we have applied for the dissemination of that terminology. In the final part, we will then draw some conclusions.

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