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Welcome to Research Projects

The Faculty of Arts at the University of the Western Cape has a long and proud history of offering academic leadership in addressing challenges in the humanities and social sciences in the South African context.

 

 Research Projects

 

Research: Arabic Section

Professor Yasien Mohamed received the Imam Bukhari and Imam Tirmizi Visiting Research Fellowship 2010-2011 from the Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies, an affiliation of Oxford University.  He spent three months of his sabbatical in Oxford, and he is still currently on research leave and continuing with his research project: The Ethical Philosophy of Imam al-Ghazali: An Annotated Translation, with Critical Introduction, of al-Ghazali's Mizan al-‘Amal (The Scale of Action). While in Oxford Mohamed was asked to contribute an article for a special issue on al-Ghazzali for the Muslim World, which is a journal of the Hartford Seminary. The article, The Ethics of Education: al-Isfahani’s al-Dhari’ah as a source of  inspiration for al-Ghazzali’s Mizan al-Amal, is now complete and awaiting publication. The wider research project, which involves a translation of the text into English is still a work in progress and has attracted the attention of Kazi publishers, Chicago, for possible publication in 2012.  A key question to be answered in this study is:

Does al-Ghazali’s ethics provide a model of classical Islamic humanistic ethics, or is it mainly of a religious nature?

Another research project that Mohamed is working on is on the Economic Thought of the  Ibn Khaldun, the North African Sociologist  and Adam Smith, the European Economist. Mohamed is hoping to show that Ibn Khaldun preceded Adam Smith in originating the labour theory of value, and could possibly have had an indirect influence on Adam Smith.

Mustapha Saidi is devoting all his energies to complete his dissertation this year on the Metaphor in the Qur’an, and hopes to demonstrate that the Qur’an can also be appreciated as a work of literature, and that its religious impact can also be attributed to its literary features.

Africa in the World and the World in Africa

The project deals with foreign language acquisition (French and German) in Africa, focusing on South Africa. The research wishes to test the generally accepted (Europe, North America) assumption that effective foreign language acquisition should be supplemented by structured cultural and historical studies.

Problem Identification

Do structured cultural and historical studies increase the effectiveness of foreign language acquisition in Africa? In foreign language teaching a number of assumptions have been 'taken over' from First World didactics and it appears that very little verification has been done to test the validity of these assumptions for foreign language acquisition (third language teaching) in an African context at tertiary level

Rationale and Motivation

Received practice in foreign language (FL) acquisition (beginners to intermediary level) stresses that cultural information about the foreign country should be integrated into the learning process. (Byram 1989, Kramsch 1993, Thanasoulas 2001) In South Africa where foreign languages are taught at secondary level, the current blend of language acquisition and cultural information barely suffices. Requirements at tertiary level are even more demanding as literature studies form part of the degree requirement and a more in-depth historical (as well as cultural) knowledge is required. As there have been significant changes in the South African school curricula over the past 10 years, the level of global historical understanding of students entering tertiary institutions has dropped sharply and therefore for those students choosing foreign languages (e.g. French, German, Spanish, Italian) this poses additional difficulties in mastering the literature requirements quite apart from the language challenge to progress from beginners’ to intermediary level over a period of 6 semesters.

The motivation for the current research is linked to a need to understand how cultural and historical knowledge can be imparted efficiently in FL teaching at tertiary level in South Africa. It would appear that the “First World” approach (as set out in the many language course books for foreign languages produced in Europe or the States) does not sufficiently engage or satisfy South African students and that literature teaching often falls short because of a lack of historical knowledge on their part. What exactly is the cultural and historical consciousness that students bring with them and how can this be effectively be brought to bear on FL language acquisition and literature study?

No research data has been found to date that looks at the role of cultural and historical studies in FL teaching in Africa. The indications appear to be that this aspect of FL teaching has been seen as requiring no further investigation or verification. What applies to Europe/North America has therefore been deemed to apply to Africa. (Search engines ERIC, LLBA and MLA were used.)

Workplan – Research Activities

Activities  Research activities consists of an introductory workshop, development of a questionnaire ongoing literature research, analysis of questionnaire data, summary/interpretation of data as well as visits to other campuses, dependent on available finances.

Methodology

The research methodology will be based on questionnaires (quantitative) and if necessary, followed up by selected interviews (qualitative) among students in order to expand on the data collected.

Time frame

Sept 2009     Introductory Workshop  (took place at UWC)

Jan – Dec 2010     Literature Review, Development and Testing of questionnaire

Jan - Feb 2011     Administering questionnaire at start of academic year 2011 (to date 4 other universities within South Africa will be participating)

Nov - Feb 2011 / 2012

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