Second language teaching of vocation-specific isiZulu communication skills to health sciences students

  • Margaret Matthews
  • Roshni Gokool


The importance of integrating teaching of the previously disadvantaged languages of South Africa in the mainstream courses offered in higher education is widely acknowledged. IsiZulu is taught formally to first-year health science undergraduates, complying with the 2006 University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Language Policy. However, in the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) programme, this has been shown to be inadequate to equip students with the necessary language skills to engage meaningfully with patients in a consultation when they reach the clinical years. Consequently, the College of Health Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal is in an early stage of teaching vocation-specific isiZulu communication skills to second language health sciences students. This is necessary as good communication is considered essential for clinical competence. This position paper refers to relevant theories of second language acquisition and the teaching methods that have been used to integrate the teaching of isiZulu communication skills into the three preclinical years of the medical curriculum. This interprofessional collaborative initiative is intended to prepare students for the clinical years of study. Recommendations are made for full vertical integration of isiZulu communication skills throughout the six-year programme, with specific assessment in either simulated or clinical settings, to motivate students and drive learning of isiZulu for clinical communication.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2305-1159
print ISSN: 0257-2117