Cultural identity and acquisition planning for English as a second language in South Africa
Coetzee-Van Rooy, Anna Susanna
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English undeniably holds high status in South Africa and several people opt to learn English as a second language (L2). Despite overwhelmingly positive attitudes, low levels of English L2 proficiency are widely reported. The low levels of English L2 proficiency indicate that acquisition planning for English as a L2 is not effective enough. Research indicates that successful implementation of language planning is dependent upon a thorough understanding of the linguistic and social attitudes of the learners for whom language plans are developed. This information is not readily available for South African learners of English as a L2. Furthermore, social approaches to L2 learning are inherently unable to provide information applicable to the South African context, because these approaches: ( 1) focus on integrative motivation that overlooks the influence of cultural identity on L2 proficiency and (2) hold essentialist and static views of cultural identity. Therefore, it is difficult to obtain the information required for effective acquisition planning for English as a L2 in South Africa. The main purpose of the study is to determine how a better understanding of cultural identity can improve acquisition planning for English as a L2. The secondary aims of the study are: * to analyse the acquisition planning context for English as a L2 in South Africa, *to determine the English L2 proficiency of two groups ofL2learners of English in South Africa (Ll speakers of Afrikaans and Southern Sotho respectively) as representatives of the broader L2 community in South Africa, *to describe their cultural identities, *to determine if aspects of cultural identity are related to the English L2 proficiency of the subjects (Pearson Product Moment correlations), and *to determine if aspects of cultural identity contribute to variance in the English L2 proficiency (stepwise multiple regression analysis) of the subjects. The final outcome of this study is to draft a proposal to improve acquisition planning for English as a L2 in multilingual South Africa. This implies that both the unintentional acquisition planning that resulted from language in education policies for South African education in the past, as well as the tentative acquisition planning goals put forward by, for example, the Langtag (1996) report, could be improved. Two methods are utilised in this study: a literature survey and an empirical investigation. Literature about acquisition planning in multilingual contexts, cultural identity and social approaches to L2 learning are reviewed. The empirical investigation is mainly focused on the realisation of the secondary aims of the study. The dependent variable of this study is English L2 proficiency. Independent variables are aspects of cultural identity. Cultural identity is regarded as an umbrella term for values, lifestyle, ethnicity, racial identity, attitudes towards groups, language usage and ethnolinguistic vitality. The most important findings from this study are that: *acquisition planning for English as a L2 is not effective for Southern Sotho learners; *cultural identities of Afrikaans and Southern Sotho respondents are complex; *there is a relationship between the cultural identities of Afrikaans and Southern Sotho learners and their English L2 proficiency; and *language planning can be improved on the basis of the new knowledge about the cultural identities of Afrikaans and Southern Sotho learners and their relationship to English L2 proficiency. Based on these findings, the following recommendations are made: *Recommendation I: that transformation, affirmative action and reconstruction and development plans have overt language requirements. *Recommendation 2: that English L2 learning contexts take cognisance of the multilingual nature of South African society and the resultant multidimensional cultural identities of English L2 learners. *Recommendation 3: that the L 1 is used in English L2 learning contexts to enhance literacy-related (academic) language proficiency development. *Recommendation 4: that in-group pride and a more inclusive attitude towards humanity in general be reflected in English L2 learning contexts. *Recommendation 5: that learning activities in the English L2 learning context focus on developing a more autonomous lifestyle among learners. The complex nature of the cultural identities of Afrikaans and Southern Sotho respondents makes it difficult to find a way to use this information effectively in order to improve acquisition planning for English as a L2. The cultural identities are complex, because they incorporate seemingly conflicting notions. Attitudes from government and South Africans in general towards these complexities inherent to multilingual societies show that few people understand the general societal benefits of engaging with these complexities. Reorienting the minds of South Africans about these matters present the biggest challenge to implementation.
- Humanities