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In Angola, Education Ministry Aims to Expand Teaching of English

AA: I'm Avi Arditti and this week on WORDMASTER: English teaching in Angola. Francisco Matete is president of ANELTA, the Angolan English Language Teachers Association, which came into being five years ago and today has about four hundred members.

English language instruction currently begins in grade seven, which is later than some other countries, and he says the teaching varies greatly from place to place in Angola. But Francisco Matete told me the Ministry of Education is carrying out a curriculum reform program.

FRANCISCO MATETE: "Well, the new curriculum reform seeks to teach English at all levels, because in the past we had two foreign languages, French and English, and both were elective languages. And today we have only English, which is the core subject. It means that everyone going to school is bound to learn English from school to university."

AA: "So English is currently required, or it will be required?"

FRANCISCO MATETE: "So English will be required to be a core subject in a few years."

AA: "And how has this expansion already of English teaching, what effects has it had on Angolan economic [conditions] or just in general, have they seen any effects from this expansion of English teaching?"

FRANCISCO MATETE: "Yes, we have seen some effects of English expansion in Angola. Because we have oil companies and the majority of oil companies are from overseas, the majority of employees are Americans and foreigners in general, and Angolans cannot work with foreigners if they are not English-friendly. That's why English becomes now a milestone in the whole country."

AA: "Has a local English, a local variation of English, been developing? Are there terms that Angolan English speakers would understand that maybe other speakers of English would not understand?"

FRANCISCO MATETE: "Now we begin to face problems with American accent and English. People studying English in Angola use both English and American English, and we now begin to code-switch also, using Portuguese and English at the same time."

AA: "They're code-switching, they're using in the same sentence or the same conversation little bits of Portuguese, little bits of English, how is that going over?"

FRANCISCO MATETE: "It's great, by the way. And we have words like 'to chill out' in English, which the Portuguese speakers have used as their own word. We say 'vou chillar,' to mean 'I'm going to chill out.' These words are playing great impact in the Portuguese also in Angola."

AA: "Are there other examples of idiomatic terms that can be found in Angolan English?"

FRANCISCO MATETE: "Not only idiomatic terms. Nowadays, especially the young, the youth, are using 'brother' instead of 'irmao.' There are others, to say 'dad' instead of 'father.' So English has become common now in Angola amongst the young people."

AA: "And what kinds of materials are you using in the schools to teach English?"

FRANCISCO MATETE: "We are limited in terms of materials. We seldom use multimedia, neither I.T. [information technology] in the classrooms. Not every school has Internet. Out of a hundred, five have. There is a state program called One Computer in Every Home, and we hope that the government will work hard to bring computers to every home and people will have the chance to use Internet everywhere."

AA: "Is English an official language in Angola?"

FRANCISCO MATETE: "No, English is not an official language in Angola. We have twelve national languages, six of which are taught at school, and these twelve languages interfere greatly in the teaching and learning of English also.

"The problem is many of our teachers have not gone through special training, and neither know the Portuguese well. And some who are not skilled in English think mostly in their native languages -- that's why there's interference often -- and when they want to say something in English, they can't, neither in English nor in Portuguese, and they say it in their mother tongues."

AA: Francisco Matete is president of the Angolan English Language Teachers Association. He was in New York for the recent TESOL, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, convention. And that's WORDMASTER for this week. Our address is I'm Avi Arditti.