Global Norms and local requirements for Black South African English ('BSAE')? -- A pilot study of teachers' assessment and perceptions of learner texts

  • Ute Smit Department of English, University of Vienna, Austria
  • Marlene Verhoef School of Languages, Vaal Triangle Campus, Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education, Private Bag X6001, Potchefstroom 2520, South Africa


Recent debates on English varieties have focused on the apparent contrast of Global English on the one hand and World Englishes on the other, where the former reflects the status of English as the main global means of communication, while the latter describes the multitude of diverse varieties of English presently used in various parts of the world. The status and description of the variety in question here, BSAE (Black South African English), is one of the examples that apparently contain elements of both Global English and World Englishes.
This article reports on the pilot study of a still-ongoing research project which investigates teachers' language perceptions and language use in mainly BSAE-using classrooms. Our aim here is to describe and analyse this specific micro-level situtation of language use in view of two macr-level considerations: (i) in how far has Global English vs local Englishes manifest themselves in teachers' evaluations and (ii) what this means for the teachers' perception of BSAE (Black South African English). From a methodological point of view, the pilot study focuses on teachers's language perceptions as revealed in their assessment of student work and elicited by a questionnaire containing student texts and closed and open-ended questions, which was filled in by 48 respondents in August 2001. The findings show that the respondents uses two criteria of assessment (MESSAGE and SENTENCE GRAMMAR), which relate to learner-group centred and external points of reference. While more, and also more detailed, data will be needed before clear-cut conclusions regarding the macro-level considerations can be drawn, the study outcomes seem to indicate that in actual situations of language use a global norm and local manifestations and expectations co-exist, which might also be the basis for the diffuse but still shared understanding of BSAE as a variety of its own.

(S/ern Af Linguistics and Applied Language Stud: 2003 21(3): 153-168)

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614