Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

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University students’ context-dependent conscious attitudes towards the official South African languages

Nanna Haug Hilton


This paper considers the results of an empirical investigation of overt language attitudes held by students attending North-West University, South Africa. Attitudes elicited from 325 students with mainly Setswana, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English as home languages are analysed comparatively. The study explores the relationship between language preferences in an educational environment and language preferences in other domains of students’ daily lives. The study thus indicates how different languages fulfil different roles in a multilingual university environment. The results presented are compared with findings reported in earlier attitudinal investigations from the Eastern Cape. In addition, a comparative analysis of attitudes by Afrikaans speakers is conducted considering students attending classes at two different campuses of the North-West University. At the traditional Afrikaans university campus, Potchefstroom, students show a higher regard for Afrikaans than students who attend classes at the Vaal Triangle. These findings are used in a discussion of context dependency of overt language preferences.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2010, 28(2): 123–132
AJOL African Journals Online