Multilingual communication in a higher education classroom in Namibia where the dominant community language is Oshiwambo

Shiweda, Meameno Aileen (2013-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study refers to the use of two languages in education at a satellite campus of the University of Namibia situated in the far north of the country in the town of Ongwediva. The dominant community language in this region is Oshiwambo. The official language of the country, and of the particular university campus, is English. As the majority of students come from this region, the dominant first language on this campus among staff and students is Oshiwambo. This research gives a description of multilingualism prevalent among individuals and in the community on this particular campus; it also explains some of the characterising features of a plurilingual community of practice in this higher education (HE) institution. This thesis gives a description of communicative practices in a multilingual classroom at the particular HE institution in this rural town. It aims to document how practices of code-switching between Oshiwambo and English are used in facilitating (or hindering) learning as this becomes manifest in classroom discourse. Also, it aims to explain the kind of mobility that is enabled and sometimes also enforced by linguistic diversity within a community such as the one investigated here on the Hifikepunye Pohamba campus in Ongwediva. Findings of this study provide evidence that most lecturers and students, even many of foreign origin, alternate between two languages, namely between Oshiwambo and English. Although the practice of code switching is neither unusual nor discouraged, the data indicates that is occurs much less in formal classroom discourse than in informal discourse and in smaller group discussions. Observed and recorded presentations by the lecturer are done in English and responses by students in the lecture are given largely in English. Code switching from English to Oshiwambo happens when students need to articulate themselves more precisely than their English proficiency allows. Such code switching also serves other purposes such as including and excluding other conversants, mediating new knowledge, changing tone, etc. L1 speakers of languages other than Oshiwambo do at times experience social isolation, and exclusion in collaborative learning. Nevertheless, many informally acquire proficiency in Oshiwambo and so are accommodated into the educational discourse. The mobility of the local Namibian population as well as that of people from neighbouring countries, enhances the multilingualism which has to be accommodated in lectures and in out-of-classroom interaction. In spite of multilingual repertoires, the participants in the study all ascribe to a model of “double monolingualism” in that they regard their linguistic repertoires not as intersecting language systems, but as separate systems with distinct functions in different contexts. Their linguistic practices, however, display much more unconscious integration of the variety of languages they know. The study finds that it is vital for educators to take cognisance of these findings in order to make better use of the linguistic resources of the communities represented among lecturers and students.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie gee aandag aan die gebruik van twee tale in onderrig by ʼn satellietkampus van die Universiteit van Namibië, wat in die verre noorde van die land geleë is, in die dorp Ongwediva. Die dominante streektaal wat hierdie gemeenskap gebruik, is Oshiwambo. Die amptelike taal van die land, en van die betrokke universiteitskampus, is Engels. Aangesien die meerderheid van die studente uit die streek kom, is die mees gebruikte eerstetaal onder personeel en studente op hierdie kampus, Oshiwambo. Hierdie tesis beskryf die veeltaligheid wat aangetref word onder individue en binne die gemeenskap van hierdie hoër onderwys inrigting; dit gee ook ʼn uiteensetting van enkele karakteriserende eienskappe van ʼn meertalige gemeenskap wat gekonstitueer word op grond van gemeenskaplike praktyke aan hierdie hoër onderwys inrigting. Die tesis gee ʼn beskrywing van kommunikatiewe gebruike in ʼn veeltalige klaskamer by die betrokke inrigting vir hoër onderwys in die plattelandse dorp. Dit beoog die dokumentering van kodewisselingspraktyke tussen Oshiwambo en Engels soos dit in klaskamerdiskoerse voorkom in die fasilitering (of belemmering) van leer. Dit beoog verder om die soort mobiliteit te verduidelik wat moontlik gemaak word, en soms ook afgedwing word deur veeltaligheid binne ʼn gemeenskap soos die een wat hier aan die Hifikepunye Pohamba kampus in Ongwediva ondersoek word. Die bevindinge van die ondersoek wys daarop dat die meeste dosente en studente, selfs baie wat van vreemde herkoms is, afwisselend twee tale, nl. Oshiwambo en Engels, gebruik. Alhoewel die praktyk van kodewisseling nie ongewoon is nie, en ook nie ontmoedig word nie, toon die data dat dit minder dikwels in die formele klaskamerdiskoers voorkom as in informele diskoerse en in kleiner groepbesprekings. Klasaanbiedinge van die dosent wat waargeneem en opgeneem is, sowel as terugvoer van die studente in die lesing is grootliks in Engels gedoen. Kodewisseling van Engels na Oshiwambo vind plaas as studente voel dat hulle iets meer presies wil verwoord as wat hulle Engels-taalvaardigheid toelaat. Sodanige kodewisseling het ook ander funksies, soos die insluiting of uitsluiting van ander gespreksgenote, die bemiddeling van nuwe kennis, ʼn verandering in toon, en dergelike. Eerstetaalsprekers van ander tale as Oshiwambo ervaar wel van tyd tot tyd dat hulle geïsoleer word, en dat hulle by gesamentlike leer-praktyke uitgesluit word. Nogtans verwerf baie van die nie-Oshiwambosprekendes informeel kennis van Oshiwambo sodat hulle dan wel in die opvoedkundige diskoers geakkommodeer word. Die mobiliteit van die plaaslike Namibiese bevolking sowel as dié van mense uit buurlande, lei tot groter voorkoms van veeltaligheid wat in lesings en in die buite-klaskamer interaksie geakkommodeer moet word. Ten spyte van talige repertoires wat meer tale as net twee insluit, werk die deelnemers aan hierdie studie deurgaans met ʼn model waarna verwys word as “dubbele eentaligheid” (“double monolingualism”), wat inhou dat hulle hul kennis van verskeie tale nie verstaan as oorvleuelende, gemeenskaplik funksionerende stelsels nie, maar as aparte stelsels met verskillende funksies in verskillende kontekste. Hulle talige gebruike vertoon egter heelwat meer onbewuste integrasie van die verskeidenheid tale wat hulle ken. Die studie vind dit noodsaaklik dat opvoedkundiges kennis neem van hierdie bevindinge ten einde beter gebruik te maak van die taalbronne van die onderskeie gemeenskappe wat deur die dosente en studente verteenwoordig word.

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