The position of English in the language repertoires of multilingual students at a tertiary institution: A case study at the Vaal University of Technology

Bam, Mariette (2016-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis describes a case study on the position of English in the language repertoires of students at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT). Despite its multilingual student body, English is officially the VUT’s only language of learning and teaching (LoLT). The aim of the study was to draw up a language profile of VUT students by making use of language background questionnaires and language portraits. Furthermore, the study investigated the language biographies of a selected group of students with similar language histories, in the sense that they lived in the same province (Limpopo), had the same schooling background and had similar exposure to the main languages of that province. Here, the aim was to provide a detailed description of the formative language experiences of these students as reported in their language biographies and to gain insight into how these experiences relate to their current knowledge and use of English. Individual interviews were conducted with the Limpopo students, and their English marks over a two-year period were considered. All participants were enrolled for the compulsory second-year subject Applied Communication Skills. Data collected consisted of 127 completed language background questionnaires and language portraits, eight individual interviews, and the following marks of the interviewed participants: the mark for English on their National Senior Certificate, the mark for the compulsory computer-based VUT course English Development Learning, and the mark for Applied Communication Skills. An analysis was also done of the Limpopo students’ English essays. A mixed methods approach was followed: some findings were presented as descriptive statistics, and thematic analysis was also done. Findings included that 10% of the participants were bilingual and 90% multilingual. Participants on average spoke four languages, but some spoke up to 10. Most were not highly proficient in English, but participants still indicated that English was their language of choice outside of family-related domains: whereas they mostly used African languages in the home and at family and religious gatherings, they almost exclusively used English at university, on social media, and at social gatherings. That said, they voiced appreciation for their mother tongues and valued multilingualism. The findings for the Limpopo students concurred with those for the participants as a whole, with the analysis of their essays and English marks indicating limited English proficiency. Aliteracy (the phenomenon that adults who can read and write in a particular language choose not to do so) was noticed amongst the participants for the African languages they spoke as mother tongues. Based on the findings of this study (including those on aliteracy in African languages), English is at present deemed the most suitable LoLT for the VUT. This study drew on established research in the fields of multilingualism in education; language policy and practice; language repertoires, biographies, and identities; and language as an instrument in learning. Based on the findings of this study, the recommendation is that students should be offered opportunities to develop industry-acceptable English skills in order to improve their chances of obtaining good employment and progressing well on their chosen career paths.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis beskryf ‘n gevallestudie oor posisie van Engels in die taalrepertoires van studente aan die Vaal Universiteit van Tegnologie (VUT). Ten spyte van hierdie universiteit se veeltalige studentekorps is Engels die VUT se enigste taal van leer en onderrig (TLO). Die doel van die studie was om ‘n taalprofiel van VUT-studente op te stel deur gebruik te maak van taalagtergrondsvraelyste en taalportrette. Die studie het ook die taalbiografieë van ‘n geselekteerde groep studente ondersoek met ‘n ooreenstemmende taalgeskiedenis, deurdat hul in dieselfde provinsie (Limpopo) grootgeword en steeds gewoon het, dieselfde skoolagtergrond gehad het en soortgelyke blootstelling gehad het aan die vernaamste tale van daardie provinsie. Die doel hiervan was om ‘n gedetailleerde beskrywing te gee van die formatiewe taal-ervarings van hierdie studente soos weergegee in hul taalbiografieë en om insig te verkry oor hoe hierdie ervarings verband hou met hul huidige kennis en gebruik van Engels. Individuele onderhoude is gevoer met die Limpopo-studente en hul Engelspunte is oor ‘n tydperk van twee jaar is in ag geneem. Alle deelnemers was ingeskryf vir die verpligte tweedejaarsvak Applied Communication Skills. Die data wat ingesamel is, het bestaan uit 127 ingevulde taalagtergrond-vraelyste en taalportrette, agt individuele onderhoude en die volgende punte van die onderhouddeelnemers: Engelspunte soos dit verskyn op die Nasionale Senior Sertifikaat, punte vir die verpligte rekenaargebaseerde VUT-kursus English Development Learning, asook punte vir Applied Communication Skills. Onderhouddeelnemers se Engelse opstelle is ook ontleed. ‘n Gemengde metodes-benadering is gevolg: sommige bevindinge is aangebied as beskrywende statistiek, en daar is ook van tematiese ontleding gebruik gemaak. Daar is ondermeer bevind dat 10% van die deelnemers tweetalig was en 90% veeltalig. Gemiddeld was deelnemers vier tale magtig, maar sommige deelnemers kon tot 10 tale praat. Die meeste deelnemers was nie goed vaardig in Engels nie, maar het steeds Engels aangedui as hul taal van keuse buite familie-verwante domeine: waar meestal Afrikatale gebruik is in die huis en tydens familie- en godsdienstige byeenkomste, het deelnemers byna uitsluitlik Engels gebruik by die universiteit, op sosiale media en tydens sosiale byeenkomste. Deelnemers het egter hul waardering uitgespreek vir hul moedertale en het veeltaligheid as belangrik geag. Die bevindinge vir die Limpopo-studente het ooreengestem met dié vir die deelnemers as geheel, met die ontleding van hul opstelle en Engelspunte wat beperkte Engelse vaardigheid aangetoon het. “Ageletterdheid” (die verskynsel dat volwassenes wat mense ‘n bepaalde taal kan lees en skryf, verkies om nie so te doen nie) is opgemerk onder die deelnemers vir die Afrikatale wat hulle as moedertale praat. Volgens die bevindinge van die studie (insluitende dié van “ageletterdheid” in Afrikatale), word Engels tans beskou as die mees geskikte TLO vir die VUT. Hierdie studie het gesteun op gevestigde navorsing in die velde veeltaligheid in opvoedkunde; taalbeleid en –praktyk; taalrepertoires, -biografieë, en -identiteite; en taal as instrument van leer. Die aanbeveling na aanleiding van die bevindinge van hierdie studie is dat studente die geleentheid gegun word om industrie-aanvaarbare Engelse vaardighede te ontwikkel ten einde hul kanse te verbeter op goeie werksgeleenthede en goeie vordering in hul gekose loopbane.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/100372
This item appears in the following collections: