Exploring the learner profile of the English Home Language classroom in select urban secondary schools

  • Tessa Harmse
  • Rinelle Evans
Keywords: English language proficiency, medium of instruction, nonnative speakers, linguistic profile, policy mismatch, urban schools


In a democratic South Africa, English has increasingly become the preferred medium of instruction despite the majority of South African  learners being mother tongue speakers of other languages. Many learners in urban areas are enrolled to take English Home Language and especially novice teachers expect them to have mother tongue proficiency. However, the reality is that learners come from diverse  backgrounds and a single class comprises learners with varying levels of English proficiency. This study seeks to establish who is the actual target audience seated in the socalled English Home Language class. Quantitative data were collected through a questionnaire completed by 642 Grade 8 and 9 respondents at three suburban schools in Gauteng. Cross tabulations were used to compare different variables. Key findings indicate that respondents – although multilingual – do not considerthemselves adequately proficient in  English. Secondly, the role of the caregiver as initial source of learning English has been underestimated. Although smallscale, the study highlights the mismatch
between classroom reality and curriculum requirements. Results suggest that the national education authorities need to adapt policy documents so that what is currently expected of learners might be more easily accomplished in the English class. The questionnaire may  serve as a useful resource to determine the linguistic profile of a particular target group.



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eISSN: 0259-9570