Compulsory African languages in tertiary education: prejudices from news website commentary
Commentary posted by visitors to online news articles shows evidence of their attitudes and prejudices. A qualitative study was undertaken on commentary made by anonymous users on articles relating to Minister Blade Nzimande’s statements on the introduction of African language courses in higher education and the introduction of a compulsory isiZulu course at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The tertiary language context in South Africa shows a distinct move from bilingual instruction to monolingual, English-based instruction. Despite the fact that sufficient policy frameworks and infrastructure exist in terms of multilingualism and the promotion of African languages, in reality more has to be done if policy provisions are to be realised. The news article commentaries show contradicting views regarding the teaching and use of African languages and languages more generally at tertiary level. The importance of English was also clear from the commentaries. Furthermore, negative and even erroneous perceptions apparently exist regarding African languages as learning targets. These perceptions lead to negativity, anger and even outright rejection of African languages. It is clear that a lot has to be done to counter ignorance of the social and educational value of these languages. A number of possible practical problems were identified that have to be taken into account by universities. In conclusion, it is clear that negative attitudes have to be addressed by means of language attitude planning and that existing resources at universities should be developed.