Learning and Teaching a Foreign Language in a Multilingual setting: The case of German in Kenya
Hinga, Anne Njoki
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The transmission of German as a foreign language in Kenya is heavily influenced by the prevailing linguistic situation which is multilingual in nature (Agoya 2001, Wachira 2008). The linguistic situation in Kenya is such that apart from the indigenous language(s) (there are around forty indigenous languages in Kenya and the learners posses one or more indigenous languages), English and more recently, Kiswahili, are the official languages.1 English is also the main medium of instruction from upper primary school onwards. It is also a compulsory subject in primary and high schools. Moreover, English is also the language of communication in government, business, judiciary and industry (Agoya 2001:29). English is also viewed as the language of the elite in Kenya. Kiswahili, a Bantu language, is offered both in primary and secondary schools as an examinable subject. This means that German becomes the second foreign language for learners who choose to learn it in secondary school, after English.2 These indigenous languages as well as the language of instruction (English) influence the way they acquire German as a Foreign Language. These learners are mainly either bilingual in English and Kiswahili or in some cases trilingual in the indigenous language, English and Kiswahili and it is very likely that they already bring with them not just the knowledge of other languages but also learning experiences and strategies as they start to learn German (Agoya 2001:1). However schools and teachers do not make use of the resource already present in the heads of the learners and this paper hopes to examine how this resource could be tapped into.