Language Education Forum
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Language Education Forum. 2021, 2(1), 15-19
DOI: 10.12691/lef-2-1-3
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Language-related Barriers to Learning in a Rural English as a Second Language Classroom in South Africa

Elliot Mthembeni Mncwango1, and Freedom Nkanyiso Makhathini2

1Department of General Linguistics & Modern Languages, University of Zululand, Kwa-Dlangezwa, 3886, South Africa

2Academic Development and Innovations, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park, 2006, South Africa

Pub. Date: June 20, 2021

Cite this paper:
Elliot Mthembeni Mncwango and Freedom Nkanyiso Makhathini. Language-related Barriers to Learning in a Rural English as a Second Language Classroom in South Africa. Language Education Forum. 2021; 2(1):15-19. doi: 10.12691/lef-2-1-3


The issue of language in a bilingual classroom remains a subject of academic debate in South Africa due to the dominance of English as a medium of instruction in most academic institutions. As a minority language, English dominates education, economic and other spheres and its hegemony threatens the role of indigenous languages in learning. However, poor mastery of English posits a challenge, and while it is key to learning, it comes across as a barrier, especially in rural schools, where exposure to the language in most cases is limited to the classroom. Using a literature review, this article discusses some of the language challenges in a bilingual classroom within the rural South African context where the majority of learners speak an indigenous language as their first language. It (article) observes that is some instances there are challenges with regards to teacher preparedness to deal with language (grammar) demands of learners, and that the sole use of English as a medium of instruction in the classroom also presents a barrier to learning. It concludes, inter alia, that language should be taught by language teachers; learners need to be supported during the transition from mother tongue instruction to the English medium of instruction; and that learners’ first language ought to be used in the English-as-a-Second Language classroom, as this would mean that learners are able to draw on their full linguistic repertoire, which would benefit both their first language as well as the second language (English).

bilingual classroom English language barrier indigenous language rural context

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