Learners' attitudes to standard vs non-standard South African English accents of their teachers

Galanakis, Linda (2010-03)

Thesis (MPhil (General Linguistics))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is interested in the relationship between accent and hearers’ perception of the speaker. It investigates the kinds of stereotypes related to phonological features of the speaker’s language. Specifically this thesis focused on the perceptions that high school girls have of their Mathematics teachers who speak English with a non-standard accent. The general aims of the study were to establish whether high school girls perceived non-standard English speaking Mathematics teachers negatively and, if so, whether this perception changed as the girls mature. Twenty-seven Grade 8 learners and 14 Grade 12 learners from a private English-medium school in the Gauteng Province of South Africa participated in this study. The school attracts learners from the affluent socio-economic group, and the majority of the learners are white (76.8%) and first language speakers of English (86%). These participants completed questionnaires using the matched-guise technique (Lambert, Hodgson, Gardner and Fillenbaum 1960) to determine their perceptions of six accents. Five speakers were recorded reading the same Mathematics lesson in English. One reader read the same passage twice, using a so-called Standard South African English accent for one recording and a second language accent of an isiZulu mother tongue speaker for the second recording. The results of this investigation indicate that high school girls are inclined to stereotype teachers according to the teachers’ accents. Some of the characteristics attributed to the non-standard English speaking teachers were positive, but generally learners held a negative perception of such teachers. There was very little change in this perception from Grade 8 to Grade 12. Of particular importance in the National Curriculum Statement for Grades 10 to 12 is that learners emerge from this phase of their schooling being “sensitive to issues of diversity such as poverty, inequality, race, gender, language, age, disability and other factors” (www.sabceducation.co.za/). The school where the research was conducted has addressed diversity in numerous ways in an attempt to prepare the learners for life in multilingual and multicultural South Africa. That the Grade 12 learners in this study, whether first language speakers of English or not, still display accent prejudice suggests that the life skills objectives are not adequately met and that this form of prejudice needs to be addressed in more creative ways.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING:: Hierdie studie stel belang in die verhouding tussen aksent en hoorders se waarneming van die spreker. Dit ondersoek die soort stereotipering wat saamhang met die fonologiese eienskappe van die spreker se taal. Hierdie tesis het spesifiek gefokus op die persepsies wat hoërskoolmeisies het van hul Wiskunde-opvoeders wat Engels met ‘n nie-standaard aksent praat. Die algemene doelstellings van die studie was om vas te stel of hoërskoolmeisies hierdie opvoeders negatief beoordeel op grond van hul aksent en, indien wel, of hierdie oordeel minder fel raak met ouerdom. Sewe-en-twintig Graad 8-leerders en 14 Graad 12-leerders aan ‘n privaat- Engels-medium skool in die Gauteng Provinsie van Suid-Afrika het aan die studie deelgeneem. Die skool se leerders kom uit die hoë sosio-ekonomiese groep, en die meerderheid is Wit (76.8%) en eerstetaalsprekers van Engels (86%). Die deelnemers het vraelyste voltooi as deel van sogenaamde “matched guise”- (Lambert, Hodgson, Gardner en Fillenbaum 1960) navorsing om hul persepsies van ses aksente te bepaal. Vyf sprekers is op band opgeneem terwyl hulle dieselfde Wiskunde-les in Engels lees. Een leser het die les twee maal gelees, een maal met ’n sogenaamde Standaard Suid-Afrikaanse Engelse aksent en een maal met ’n tweedetaal aksent tipies van ‘n isiZulu moedertaalspreker. Die resultate van hierdie ondersoek dui daarop dat hoërskoolmeisies geneig is om opvoeders te stereotipeer op grond van die opvoeders se aksent. Party eienskappe wat aan die nie-standaard Engelssprekende opvoeders toegeskryf is, was positief, maar oor die algemeen het leerders ’n negatiewe persepsie van sulke opvoeders gehad. Baie min verandering in hierdie persepsies het van Graad 8 tot Graad 12 plaasgevind. Van besondere belang in die Graad 10 tot 12 Nasionale Kurrikulm is dat leerders aan die einde van hierdie fase ‘n sensitiwiteit sal hê vir kwessies aangaande “diversiteit, soos armoede, ongelykheid, ras, geslag, taal, ouderdom, gestremdheid en ander faktore” (www.sabceducation.co.za/). Die skool waar hierdie navorsing gedoen is, spreek diversiteit op velerlei maniere aan in ’n poging om leerders voor te berei vir lewe in veeltalige en multikulturele Suid-Afrika. Die feit dat Graad 12- leerders in hierdie studie, of hulle eerstetaalsprekers van Engels is al dan nie, steeds aksentvooroordele toon, dui aan dat die doelstellings van lewensvaardigheid onderrig nie voldoende bereik word nie en dat hierdie vorm van vooroordeel op meer kreatiewe maniere aangespreek moet word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/4259
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