Attitudes to English with particular reference to black South African English
Schumacher, Anke Annette
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South Africa recognises eleven official languages. Of those eleven, English is regarded as a lingua franca and as the language of business and education. For this reason, English is afforded significant status in South Africa (De Kadt, 1993; De Klerk & Bosch, 1993, 1995; Lazenby, 1996; De Klerk, 1997; Conradie, 1999 and Van Der Schyf & Wissing, 2000). However, the majority of speakers in this country are second language speakers of English. This has resulted in the emergence of a number of non-standard varieties of English. In light of this one must consider which English empowers. The focus of this study was on the attitudes of Human Resources professionals and students (with no prior Human Resources training and experience) towards BSAE in an employment interview context. The main aim was to investigate the possibility of negative attitudes towards Mesolect BSAE and Basilect BSAE. Twenty Human Resources professionals and twenty students were asked to rate a variety of speakers. The Acrolect. Mesolect and Basilect BSAE accents were represented, along with the Afrikaans English, Extreme SAE and Respectable SAE accents. An additional twenty Human Resources professionals and twenty students were asked to rate the content of each of the passages read by the speakers so as to control for the possible influence of content on the ratings. The results revealed that Acrolect and Mesolect BSAE are enjoying increased status among the whites and the blacks. They are no longer stigmatised and will not disadvantage a speaker in an employment interview. This corroborates the findings of De Klerk ( 1999); De Klerk and Gough (2002); Wade ( 1995); Van Rooyen (2000) and Coetzee-Van Rooy and Van Rooy (2005). Respectable SAE, although by no means disliked, has lost some of its hegemony. Clearly, it is no longer regarded as the only acceptable variety. Results also showed that accent is an important influencing factor on the ratings of the speakers, especially if the quality of the content is good. If the quality of content is poor, however, then content is the more important influencing factor and in this case an accent (even if it is liked) will not help the candidate. Finally, the results showed that there is significant bias involved in selection interviewing. When rating the candidate's employability potential, the respondents based their rating more on accent than they did on content. When rating the candidate's personality, the respondents based their rating more on content than on accent. It is unacceptable for accent to play such a large role in determining a candidate's employability potential. Technically speaking, respondents should have based their employability rating more on content than on accent, because it is content, not accent, that will give an indication of whether or not the candidate is the best person for the job.
- Humanities