Stellenbosch University
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SU provides online language support during COVID-19 pandemic
Author: Corporate Communication/Korporatiewe Kommunikasie [Rozanne Engel]
Published: 12/05/2020


As Stellenbosch University (SU) becomes accustomed to the 'new normal' of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SU Language Centre has been hard at work to provide students and staff with ongoing virtual language support.

Even before the pandemic, many of the services available at the Language Centre were already being provided in blended format. But like many departments at SU, the Centre had to change the way they work by moving courses online and by continuing to provide important language-related services such as those delivered by the Writing Lab and Reading Lab in online mode. 

“While we have always been proud of how we assist students and staff with free face-to-face writing consultations, we are now able to support hybrid and online courses with writing consultations and postgraduate writing workshops too. I hope that the Language Centre will be able to maintain and even strengthen our support to the University with our new and innovative ways of working," says Dr Kim Wallmach, Director at the Language Centre.

The Language Centre now also provides online support to students via writing and reading consultations and writing workshops for postgraduate students. All academic literacy courses embedded within faculties are also operating effectively in online format.

As it is not feasible to provide real-time interpreting for students given bandwidth issues, the Language Centre has been assisting lecturers and students by translating lecture material – whether PowerPoints, SUNLearn content or podcasts – into Afrikaans and English (and isiXhosa where there is a pedagogical need). Lecturers wishing to have their lecture material translated may approach Marguerite van der Waal of the Centre's Language Service for a quotation, and then submit the quotation to the vice-deans of the individual faculties together with a request to access Language Implementation funding.

“Like the rest of the University, we really want to be able to accommodate students using the lowest possible bandwidth, and at the same time make sure our courses are interactive. We also hope that our contribution to the provision of multilingual material for the University will help to confirm the continued importance of access to material for students from different backgrounds," says Wallmach.

The Language Centre has 55 staff members who have been working remotely as a team to ensure that there is business continuity at the Centre.

The Centre has also been able to provide additional online language support, with the English for Academic Purposes courses being available in a more accessible form to Extended Degree Programme students and others. Online English language testing for placement is also now available.

With regard to the Language Centre's more diverse service offerings, there is capacity available to translate and edit informed consent forms and other documents into a number of languages, as well as to provide transcription services, professional communication courses and online language courses.  

Find out how to get the best online language support by visiting the Language Centre website at