Original Research

Teachers’ language attitudes towards the use of a nonstandard variety in the classroom in Grades 1–3: A case of isiBhaca in Umzimkhulu, KwaZulu-Natal

Yanga L.P. Majola
Literator | Vol 43, No 1 | a1884 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v43i1.1884 | © 2022 Yanga L.P. Majola | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 February 2022 | Published: 06 October 2022

About the author(s)

Yanga L.P. Majola, Department of Applied Languages, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Mbombela Campus, South Africa


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Abstract

South Africa is a democratic country, and as such, it is crucial that every individual’s linguistic rights be protected. Also of paramount importance is that the South African government should revisit the issue of granting official status to some languages to the exclusion of others, such as isiBhaca, and consider the issue of a ‘language variation’. The educational setting has experienced challenges over attitudes towards language varieties. Teachers’ attitudes towards using a nonstandard variety of language or dialect in the education space have implications for effective teaching and learning. Therefore, this paper aims to establish the attitudes held by teachers towards the use of isiBhaca (a nonstandard variety of isiXhosa) in the education space in Umzimkhulu, KwaZulu-Natal. Using the qualitative research method, data were gathered from 22 purposively selected teachers in six schools in Umzimkhulu. Interviews were used to collect data, and the qualitative data were analysed thematically. The study found that teachers view integrating isiBhaca into the classroom as having immense benefits. The results further revealed that teachers felt that isiBhaca should initially be taught in the lower primary school grades (Grades 1–3) and up to the tertiary education level. The findings imply that learners’ academic performance in Umzimkhulu is affected by the use of isiXhosa as a medium of instruction in schools. This is why teachers who were participants in this study believe that isiBhaca is a language of the people of Umzimkhulu, and thus their learners should be given a chance to be taught in isiBhaca.

This study contributes to the body of knowledge by demonstrating the attitudes and experiences of teachers in communities where non-standard languages are used in South Africa and how teachers cope in such multilingual classrooms. In the case of isiBhaca, teachers felt that it should be adopted as a language adequate to be used in learners’ education, even though it is a non-official language. Thus, teachers’ attitudes and views should not be ignored when discussing teaching and learning pedagogies.


Keywords

isiBhaca; medium of instruction; language in education; mother tongue; nonstandard varieties

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