Is isiZulu a ‘problem or a ‘resource’? Engineering students’ perceptions of teaching and learning in a multilingual context
Research and praxis in the field teaching and learning in the South African higher education context has been characterised by calls to expand the languages of teaching and learning through the inclusive use of African languages in higher education. Such calls are based on the realisation of the critical role that students’ home language can play in cognitive and linguistic development, among other things, in education. The focus of this paper is to ascertain the perceptions of students about the inclusive use of isiZulu, an African language, as a language of teaching and learning. Data were gathered through a survey which employed a questionnaire targeting 120 students from a Faculty of Engineering at a South African university of technology. The study found that students’ understanding of the use of isiZulu for teaching and learning conflated issues of language as ‘problem’ and ‘resource’. The study also discovered elements of language ambivalence. The paper argues that helping students to shift their perceptions from a ‘problem’ view
of language to a view of language as a ‘resource’ could enhance their learning.
Keywords: African languages; IsiZulu; Teaching and learning; Higher education; South Africa