n South African Journal of Education - The effects of educational context on the understanding of linguistic concepts in English and isiZulu by Grade 7 learners

Volume 25, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0256-0100
  • E-ISSN: 2076-3433



The effects were assessed of English instruction on home language (isiZulu) competence in Grade 7 learners from three different contexts (rural, urban, and township), where the exposure to and instruction in English and isiZulu vary considerably. Eight schools including 181 learners participated in the study. The assessment tool, constructed in English and translated into isiZulu, was based on the frequency of occurrence of key concepts in a published curriculum package. The learners showed specific patterns of performance dependent on context. Johannesburg learners performed significantly better in English than in isiZulu, demonstrating the highest level of competence in English but the lowest in isiZulu. Soweto learners showed similar proficiency in both languages, demonstrating the same level of competence in isiZulu but significantly higher English scores than the Kwa-Zulu Natal learners, who did much better in isiZulu than in English. All learners had difficulty on the tasks involving conjunctions, temporal concepts, conditionals and intensifiers, which were assessed using sentence construction or sentence completion tasks, and required higher levels of language processing. The results highlighted the important role of language in learning and academic success. The significant influence of language exposure and context was also illustrated.

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