South African Journal of African Languages

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Nursing students’ use of language in communicating with isiZulu speaking clients in clinical settings in KwaZulu-Natal

Charlotte Engelbrecht, Zethu Nkosi, Dorien Wentzel, Selverani Govender, Patricia McInerney


Language provides an important means by which humans communicate with one another, and communication plays a pivotal role in the health professions in developing trust and co-operation between the carer and the one being cared for. Little has been written about the importance of language barriers in nursing, although much has been written about the importance of cultural sensitivity in communication in nursing (Bischoff et al., 2003). A qualitative research methodology was implemented to explore and describe the experiences of senior undergraduate nursing students in communicating with isiZulu speaking clients in clinical practice settings. Permission to undertake the study was obtained from the relevant authorities. Data were collected by means of narratives and a focus group discussion and were analysed using Tesch’s method of analysis to identify categories. The category ‘language of colour’ emerged from the descriptions where language was used to illustrate colour or race differences. The category ‘translation and interpretation’ emerged from the students’ direct experiences of having to act as a translator or interpreter. The category ‘walls of language’ emerged from data that described how language can be used to access a group and the privileges of that group. The language that an individual uses can either include or exclude a person from a group – much like walls can create physical boundaries.

S.Afr.J.Afr.Lang,2008, 2

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