Children following a maths lesson taught in English when their home languages may be Sesotho or Xitsonga are at a major disadvantage. Their fuzz of noncomprehension would be relieved if they had a dictionary to look up the English words in their mother tongue. Unfortunately, this is not an option, because until recently, nobody had produced dictionaries in all of SA’s official indigenous languages. "It’s inconceivable in a country where the majority of learners study in a language that’s not their mother tongue that they are not given dictionaries," says Terence Ball, the adviser on language policy implementation for the South African National Lexicography Units (Sanlu). "We all know there’s an emphasis on teaching maths and science in schools, but the majority of learners are studying in a language that’s not their mother tongue and if they don’t understand English, they’re not going to succeed in those subjects," he says. "Dictionaries are essential in terms of their understanding...

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