Teaching Science through the Mother Tongue: A Case Study of two Schools in Zimbabwe

O. Busari, L. Tatira, A. Madzudzo


he significance of the use of mother tongue in teaching science has been defended in several studies.  While there is no doubt that there are studies that have revealed some positive effect of the use of mother tongue in teaching science on students‘ performance and attitudes compared to English, the fact still remains of the need to standardize scientific concepts in mother tongue within that culture, in order for the system to be able to develop an indigenised scientific terminology for school science teaching. Towards this end, therefore, a survey of ―O‖ level students‘ translation of some perceived difficult scientific concepts into mother tongue was carried out in Zimbabwe. In the main study, a sample of eighty-eight ―O‖ level General Science students in one urban and one rural public school was administered with a Scientific Terminology in the Mother Tongue Questionnaire (STMTQ) that contained forty terminology in General Science. Using frequency and percentages, the findings reveal that a low percentage of the students have local terminology for the scientific concepts while discrepancies also existed in the translation provided by the respondents. Moreover, some concepts that contextually mean different things in science have the same terminology in the Shona language. The linguistic implications of these translations on their acquisition of scientific concepts are discussed in this paper. 

Key words:  mother tongue, scientific terminology, acquisition of scientific concepts 

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 [ISSN 0856-9965 (Print)]