Academy News

By: English Academy  11-11-2011
Keywords: English Language

Academy celebrates Golden Jubilee

2011 is the year the Academy celebrates its Golden Jubilee. The Golden Jubilee International Conference will take place on 07-09 September at the District Six campus of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Cape Town.

We are expecting over 150 delegates from over 22 countries. The grand opening on Tuesday, 06 September promises to be a phenomenal event with four of our prizes to be awarded on that evening. There will also be entertainment and refreshments.

The conference papers cover exciting subjects ranging from literature to literacy. Conference attendance is open to all members at the rates outlined in the attached document. Should you wish to attend the conference in any capacity, please complete the attached registration form and e-mail it back to me along with your proof of payment.

Attendance of the grand opening is free for all members, but the following rates will apply for the Conference Dinner on Thursday, 08 September 2011:
Academy members = R150
Non-members = R170

For both the opening and the dinner, booking is essential. Members who will be presenting papers at the conference and who would like to have their spouses or partners at the conference dinner must also book and make the necessary payments for these ones.

We hope that Western Cape members especially will take advantage of the fact that the conference is taking place at their doorsteps and make the necessary plans to attend.



Stephen Watson

It was with great sadness that the English Academy heard of the passing away of Professor Stephen Watson of the Department of English Language and Literature and Director of the Centre for Creative Writing at UCT on 10 April. Stephen was an outstanding scholar, poet, mentor, teacher and friend, and will be sorely missed by all who knew him. He was the winner of the Academy’s 2010 Thomas Pringle Award for a Short Story.  The Academy extends its condolences to his wife Tanya, his children Hannah and Julian, and to the Watson and Wilson families.


The English Academy of Southern Africa supports the move away from the South African version of an OBE curriculum. The new curriculum documents represent a decided improvement. However, we have four main concerns, which are likely to be shared by those responsible for other languages:

  1. The curriculum embodies a fundamental contradiction. On the one hand, it depends on teacher flexibility and innovativeness. On the other, it attempts to regiment. We understand the difficulty. Our national aim is to provide the best education, but we have a corps of teachers, many (and perhaps most) of whom are inadequately equipped for the task. Providing structure through weekly planners will undoubtedly help those who would otherwise be at a loss, and will in some cases allow educational managers to insist on evidence that the work is covered. However, the future success of our education system depends very largely on exemplary teachers who go far beyond compliance.  We need to promote the flexibility and innovativeness that give life to any curriculum. Unless the weekly planners are actually treated as guidelines and do not effectively become mandatory for all, they will inhibit the pace-setting teachers. The curriculum needs to indicate unequivocally that the planners are intended as guidelines to be used with discretion.
  2. As presented in the curriculum, “Language Structure and Use” becomes a subset of other skills. We recognise the need to take account of best practice internationally. In language study in the English-speaking world, this often means analysing situated language use. However, situatedness is by definition not abstract. The text-based approach as developed in Australia suggests six school text types that can be effectively used to promote language across the curriculum. A key problem in South Africa is the large numbers of language teachers who lack the very high levels of knowledge and skill needed to implement a text-based language curriculum. Unless specific guidance is provided to teachers, situated language study is likely to degenerate into a hit and miss business, often giving rise to deceptive or fundamentally inaccurate observations. While we acknowledge that there is no easy solution to this problem, in the current situation we appeal for a curriculum which provides a basic structure for language study in relation to reading and constructing texts for particular purposes. This should promote the nuanced and rich understanding of language in social process that situated language analysis makes possible.
  3. Film is an important and accessible form of literature which a modern curriculum should not downplay. We are concerned that its significance at FET level, for example, has been reduced to an element in “Listening and Speaking”. It deserves a full role in the Literature part of the curriculum. That part of the curriculum, in turn, should have scope beyond the 44% of time which the new curriculum allocates to it. “Literature” is concerned with much more than study of works of literature. Among other things, it demands a  large amount of critical listening and speaking practice, making reasonable a claim that some listening and speaking time could be devoted to the Literature part of the curriculum.
  4. We are concerned at the increased burden of assessment placed on language teachers. They currently have a marking load which is probably too high, particularly given class sizes. The new curriculum increases it substantially. While it is undoubtedly important that learners should practise more, that does not necessarily mean that language teachers should have their formal assessment load increased. The distinction between formative and summative assessment may help. Teachers need to provide formative assessment for learners, focusing on how they can improve. At its best this helps learners develop more rapidly. It may involve group feedback with some attention focused on individuals. Formative assessment promotes learning. A significant problem with the current system is that all assessment is effectively taken as summative. The focus then is on marks rather than learning, and on the teacher’s accountability for the final mark. Quality promotion in language teaching requires reasonable loads, recognition of good learning practices, and accountable mark allocation. We appeal for a redescription of assessment requirements with practical constraints in mind.

Submitted to the Department of Basic Education, November 2010


The English Academy of Southern Africa is deeply concerned at the trends evident in the Bills relating to the Protection of Information and the Media Appeals Tribunal, and calls on the government to withdraw them. The Bills are radically at odds with the spirit of liberation enshrined in our national Constitution, and represent a drift back to the oppressive spirit of the apartheid state. This neo-colonial trend should be halted before it gains momentum. The Bills are silent on whose interests are to be served by the measures proposed. There is a legitimate national interest, and we would expect all legislation to serve it. However, the notion of “the national interest” was given first priority by B J Vorster to justify the increasing oppression of the apartheid state. The burden of such a past demands explicit redefinition of the concept for the democratic era. In particular, the national interest has to be interpreted in relation to the constitutional concepts of the public interest and the right to know. Failure to be explicit in this matter opens the way for “the national interest” to represent the political interests of the ruling party, or (even more narrowly) of the government of the day. The proposed Media Appeals Tribunal suggests that such slippage is not a figment of the imagination. A tribunal which is managed politically and is empowered to impose penalties which effectively shut down “troublesome” media is fundamentally at odds with democracy. To introduce it for serious consideration is a mark either of default resort by the legal drafters to the totalitarian assumptions of the apartheid state, or of a cynicism which we would hesitate to ascribe to any government in a democratic South Africa. As a nation we must avoid replicating the profound errors of the past. The two Bills discussed here undermine the national transformation project by recreating objectionable aspects of that past. They are so poorly drafted that they fudge key conceptual issues, opening the way for proposals alien to a democratic state. Documents so fundamentally flawed cannot be satisfactorily amended. If the founding principles of a liberated, democratic South Africa are to be honoured, nothing short of a radical rethink will do.


Stanley Ridge was born in Durban and grew up on a farm in the Byrne Valley near Richmond, KZN. He trained as a teacher at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, taught for several years at Kearsney College, and then went abroad for further study in England (York) and Canada (British Columbia).  In 1969, he was appointed Lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch. He taught there for 10 years, during which time he took his doctorate. Since 1979, he has had several careers on the staff of the University of the Western Cape. He has been Professor and Head of the Department of English, Senior Professor, Dean of Arts, Director of Development and Public Affairs, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), and Pro-Vice-Chancellor. He retired from full-time work at the end of 2009, but is still serving as a Special Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor. He is Professor Emeritus.
Stanley Ridge has published 52 accredited articles on English language and literature, has co-edited a volume on Applied Linguistics in southern Africa, has edited or contributed significantly to 3 school textbooks, and has served on many language-related committees, including the HSRC Main Committee on Modern Languages, the national syllabus revision committees for English, The NRF specialist panel for Language and Literature, the Western Cape Language Committee, the National Language Body for English, and the Council of the English Academy. He has also served on the editorial boards of four South African journals and one international journal, and has been a guest editor (with his wife, Dr Elaine Ridge, and Professor Sinfree Makoni) of The Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics, and Equity and Excellence in Education. Professor Ridge has served on the National Heritage Council, and chaired the Council of the National English Literary Museum. He serves as the Academic Trustee of the Babette Taute Trust, which makes scholarships available for the study of English.
Stanley Ridge was invited to deliver the Mandela Lecture at the University of Utrecht in 1990. He has served as Academic Adviser to the Global Foundation for Research and Scholarship in Tokyo, and has had periods as Visiting Scholar at the University of Buffalo in the USA, and Visiting Professor at the University of Essen in Germany and the University of Linköping in Sweden. An Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Travelling Fellowship allowed him to work in the British Library for 6 months. In 2004 he was awarded the English Academy Medal for “sustained and distinguished services to English.” In February 2010 he was honoured with the Ubuntu Dialogue Award for his contribution to Education. 

Teaching English Today

By the Editor, Dr Malcolm Venter


For a number of years, the English Academy of Southern Africa had been mooting the idea of producing a magazine for English teachers. The older teachers might recall a publication entitled CRUX, which English teachers valued greatly.  Since its demise, there has been nothing to replace it. So the Academy has launched a publication to fill the gap.  This was made possible through a generous donation from the Donaldson Trust.
At first, we contemplated a paper-based publication, but then decided instead to opt for  a web–based, interactive journal. Our reasons were as follows:
  • It is more affordable.
  • It allows for an archive to be built up for future reference.
  • It allows educators to download and print specific articles that they find of use.
  • It makes interaction and discussion much easier, allowing for interchanges of opinions, responses to articles, queries to be posed.

We were aware that there are schools in poorer areas which do not have internet access. For this reason, we have offered to supply a print version to schools that request that.

The publication  is intended to be a vehicle for teachers and teacher educators to debate critical issues, to share approaches and valuable learning material and to help build communities of practice. Clearly, the magazine also has significant value for teachers in training. The emphasis is on what will help the teacher in the classroom to teach well and to keep in touch with best practice in a South African context. This implies a predominance of practical material with some articles which bring practice into critical review.
It was decided that it would be published twice a year on a specially designed website, but may be updated between ‘issues’.

Progress report

  • The first ‘issue’ was published in June, with 17 posts on varying topics.
  • Our webmasters from Evalunet were superb in their training and ongoing assistance.
  • It was advertised to about 450 people and institutions.
  • It was also advertised at the Schools Festival in Grahamstown, by kind favour of the Grahamstown Foundation, and at a NAPTOSA conference in the Western Cape.  NAPTOSA has also advertised it in newsflashes.  Attempts to get SADTU and the SAOU (the other major teacher unions)  have not succeeded, but I will persist.
  • It will be further advertised to schools by SACEE.
  • I have received very positive responses from some members of Council and other individuals, including a senior curriculum official in the Department of Basic Education and the SG of the Western Cape Education Department.
  • There have been 41 comments on the articles posted.
  • There has been a good number of visitors – see below.
  • I have written to the Donaldson Trust to request funding for 2011.

Where to next

Regarding the next step, I am looking into making it an ongoing publication rather than two ‘issues’ per year, or a combination .  The problem that arose was that, when one adds a new post, it comes at the beginning.  This can affect the ‘unity’ of an issue.  I have, however, found a way of adding items that appear in the list of contents on the right but not at the beginning of the issue.  I have, thus, added an advertisement for a course at Wits (for Andrew Foley); info about English Alive and the English Olympiad; and the call for comments on the proposed new curriculum for English; information on a book which would aid in the studying of a particular setwork.   The danger here is that, when one downloads the website, one might miss these items as they do not appear as articles.  I’ve got round that by inserting a post which comes at the beginning of the ‘issue’ called ‘English Matters’.  There I have listed the items which have been added on the right and referred the viewer to these.

Statistical report (at 30/07/2010)

Since its launch, TET has received 747 visitors and achieved 1,835 page views.

The top 10 read articles are:

  1. Listening to visual images – appreciating political cartoons
  2. To examine or not to examine
  3. Teaching English Today launched
  4. English in South Africa, a double-edged sword 1
  5. Why English teachers need professional associations
  6. Viva English teachers viva
  7. English in South Africa, a double-edged sword 2
  8. Shakespeare in the classroom
  9. Formatting for results
  10. Mother tongue education in South Africa

The top 10 countries with visitors are:

  1. South Africa
  2. United Kingdom
  3. United States
  4. Saudi Arabia
  5. Canada
  6. Philippines
  7. India
  8. United Arab Emirates
  9. Malaysia
  10. Pakistan
  11. Russia
  12. South Korea
  13. Australia
  14. Hong Kong
  15. Mexico

547 of the 747 visitors are from South Africa.

Keywords: English Language

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Language Advisory Service

Most of our volunteers have spent many years in appropriate fields such as education and are extremely well equipped — all give their services out of love of the English language and a desire to facilitate its use and enhance its standards. There is an international standard for writing English, and in South Africa we use the standard based on British usage in grammar, spelling and punctuation.