If a student does not understand a question asked in English they are at a disadvantage. Having a dictionary available that explains and teaches the verbs used in exams is empowering.
A lexicographer from the deeply rural community of Maphophoma in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has made history by producing a mini A-Z isiZulu dictionary.
Nhlanzeko Ngwenya (38) hopes the dictionary will help learners at rural schools better understand exam questions asked in English.
Ngwenya’s mini dictionary unpacks verb use in school assessments such as define, discuss and explain in isiZulu. He said many learners in rural areas fail their assessments, not because they do not know the answers, but because in their answers they define instead of discuss.
He said that in his experience as a teacher he had noticed that many learners struggled to understand these verbs as they are not explained correctly in most IsiZulu dictionaries.
“This mini dictionary is beneficial for daily activities, homework and in preparation for end-of-year assessments. The foreign national educators can also find it useful in dealing with South African learners in a classroom scenario,” he said.
Ngwenya said one of the striking features of the mini-dictionary A-Z lexicon is that the explanations are written in full sentences, using vocabulary and grammar that occur naturally with the particular verb being explained.
“This enables us to give a lot of information about the way a verb or meaning is used by speakers of the language,” he said.
Ngwenya's big wish is to get funding to publish the dictionary so it can reach more learners.
“Once it is published in a booklet format it will be easier for me to distribute it to learners. I am appealing to[the] government sector or business people to help me publish this dictionary. My advisor for the language pedagogy said the dictionary is ready for print now but lack of funding makes it difficult for me to take it to the printers,” he said.
One of the teachers at Nongoma Primary, Hendrick Fourie said he was very impressed when he saw Ngwenya’s dictionary.
“Words are explained nicely; once it is published I will make sure that learners in my school get copies too,” said Fourie.