English language proficiency in South Africa at the turn of the millennium

  • Elizabeth de Kadt First Level School, Faculty of Human Sciences, University of Natal, Durban 4041 South Africa


The paper utilises the World Englishes paradigm to explore the issue of language proficiency: what type of English language proficiency will be most appropriate to South Africa at the start of the millennium? Three broad aspects of proficiency are proposed for further investigation, and in each case one particular area of language use is then discussed. First, intelligibility: a person who is proficient in English will be comprehensible — and will be able to comprehend others. Second, s/he will be able to use appropriate language — and will interpret appropriately the language used by others. Third, s/he will be able to use English (in addition to other languages) as a cognitive tool of learning and production. It is concluded that, rather than focussing solely on the current standard, learners should become acquainted with the wide variety of Englishes spoken in and beyond South Africa. At the same time language teaching must focus on developing ‘cognitive academic language proficiency' (Cummins, 1992) in any languages spoken or learnt, including English.

(S/ern Af Linguistics & Applied Language Stud: 2000 18(1-4): 25-32)

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614