Original Research

Exploring Grade 8 Khelobedu-speaking learners’ writing challenges in Sepedi Home Language in Mopani District, South Africa

Tsebo Ramothwala, Madikwa H. Segabutla, Christopher Rwodzi, Dira Thokwane
Literator | Vol 42, No 1 | a1744 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v42i1.1744 | © 2021 Tsebo Ramothwala, Madikwa H. Segabutla, Christopher Rwodzi, Dira Thokwane | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 August 2020 | Published: 12 April 2021

About the author(s)

Tsebo Ramothwala, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa; and Reitumetse High School, Department of Basic Education, Gauteng, South Africa
Madikwa H. Segabutla, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Christopher Rwodzi, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Dira Thokwane, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

In South Africa, Khelobedu-speaking leaners learn Sepedi as their ‘home language’ at school because Khelobedu (sometimes referred to as ‘Selobedu’) is classified as a dialect of Sotho. This article draws on the challenges that Grade 8 Khelobedu-speaking learners experience when writing in Sepedi Home Language. This article will encourage teachers to reflect on their teaching and support the learners to write better. The study aimed to investigate the Selobedu-speaking leaners’ writing experiences in Sepedi Home Language with reference to dialectical variations, exploring the strategies learners use to adapt and making recommendations to support them. A qualitative research study was conducted at two public high schools in Mopani District. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with four Sepedi teachers, learner group interviews with 30 learners from two high schools (15 per school) and 60 learner essays (30 per school). The data were analysed through content analysis and error analysis. Both the teacher interviews and learner focus group interviews revealed that the teachers used Khelobedu in the Sepedi classrooms. Moreover, teacher interviews also suggested that the learners also used Khelobedu words and pronunciation in their writing and spelt Sepedi words the way they pronounced them in Khelobedu. Further, the essays indicated that the learners struggled to write in Sepedi; they made spelling mistakes, had limited Sepedi vocabulary and struggled with conjunctive and disjunctive writing. Finally, the findings revealed that the dialectal variations between Khelobedu and Sepedi interfered with the learners’ writing instead of being additive. The learners used Khelobedu words in their writing and spelt Sepedi words the way they pronounced them in Khelobedu.

Keywords

language learning; diglossic situations; dialect; language variation; Northern Sotho; Khelobedu; writing; home language.

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