Language choices of English L1 learners in a Western Cape high school

Farmer, Jean L. (2009-03)

Thesis (MPhil (General Linguistics))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


This research focuses on the language repertoire, patterns of language use and language preferences of learners from Afrikaans homes, who are registered in the English first language classes in a particular Western Cape High School. Out interest is in how a profile of the linguistic resources of such learners and the context in which their linguistic identity develops may contribute to a perceived process of language shift in the bilingual/multilingual community where they learn and live. SCHOOL A is multi-racial and multi-lingual, with a large component of "coloured" learners living in a nearby predominantly-Afrikaans community. The thesis investigates the linguistic preferences and patterns of language choice and language use of the selected group of learners across various domains, notably at home, with relatives, at school, with peers and in their religious communities. Data from various sources is presented and discussed in detail to illustrate the variety of language skills of English L1 learners between the ages of 15 and 17 in Grades 10 and 11. This will give an impression of how multilingual a given section of the local high school population is. The profile tests whether home language or academic language has a greater influence on the later language choice of learners whose parents use Afrikaans as home language and who have English as LOLT, meaning that these learners possibly possess considerable skills in at least two languages. The data was collected by means of limited access to school records, questionnaires filled out by learners, interviews with a number of learners and a couple of parents of such learners. This gives a very good impression of which languages learners know, which they used most, which they prefer where the choice is between English/Afrikaans bilingualism, English only, Afrikaans only, or codemixed Afrikaans/English). The thesis reports on the linguistic repertoire and preferences, and also on reasons given by learners and parents for their selection of one or more of the various community languages in the different domains. Consideration is given to the possible accommodation of these learners as first language users of English which is largely a second language in the community, by other community members and institutions such as school and church. The critical interest of this thesis is to determine the nature and extent of perceived language shift in this selected community of learners at a particular Western Cape high school, and to consider whether such a shift is indicative of a more extensive process of marginalization of Afrikaans in a community that historically had a strong Afrikaans identity.

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