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MobiLex: Multilingual Glossary Project
Author: Dr Michele van der Merwe
Published: 30/06/2020

​​​The SU Faculty of Education's glossary project resulted in an open-access cell phone application, called MobiLex.  Academics in the faculty compiled a glossary as part of the faculty's language plan in order to address multilingualism at faculty level. The MobiLex project is an effort to improve the academic literacy of undergraduate students by explaining subject vocabulary encountered at university in a student's home language.

The glossary offers students the opportunity to look up terms that they find difficult to understand or that are unfamiliar to them in Afrikaans, English or isiXhosa. The glossary provides terms in all three languages as well as a short, subject-specific definition in the preferred language. MobiLex currently has terms in education-related subjects​ such as history, mathematics, natural sciences, geography, economic and management sciences, educational psychology, language education and curriculum studies.

The mobile application has been upgraded recently, with new features such as an enquiry page where questions could be posed on terms as well as a feedback page where feedback could be given to the compilers of the glossary. These innovations could ensure more interaction with users. The application is also open-access, available freely in Apple App store, as well as Google Play and could be downloaded to use offline.

“The better your vocabulary, the better your academic writing skills," says project manager, Dr Michele van der Merwe of the Department of Curriculum Studies. “The feedback we've received is that it is user friendly and helpful. Students use it in class, while doing revision and while studying. Mother tongue speakers of all three languages have indicated that they make frequent use of MobiLex for language support."

MobiLex is not only intended for students, but also for lecturers to integrate and enhance their teaching. The glossary could be used for a better comprehension of subject terminology and subsequently a subject field, introducing new concepts to a lecture, creating a network of meaning, finding the appropriate term for a definition, as well as translations of terminology in other languages. Especially when dependent on online teaching, MobiLex has a functional role to play in the process.

The project has received funding from Finlo, Department of Arts and Culture (HLT projects) and the University Capacity Development Grant.