n African Journal of Rhetoric - To use or not to use teenage slang in message-based HIV campaigns : that is the question

Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1998-2054


The high prevalence of HIV among young people makes this group a prime target for HIV prevention campaigns. A case in point is the loveLife campaign in South Africa which is directed exclusively at teenagers between 12 and 17 years of age. A significant challenge for communication campaigns is not only to determine what messages should be included but also how to deliver these messages. This paper examines the persuasive effect of three language varieties. Two teenage language versions of the message were compared to the standard variety. One version is the nascent English variety, with its more American-oriented teenage language character, which was developed and used by loveLife. The other teenage language variety was an authentic version that was developed by having young people express the message using their own teenage variety. The effectiveness of the use of a teenage variety in a HIV prevention message was compared to the efficacy of the use of the standard variety.

The findings of the study point towards a general unfavourable evaluation of the teenage variety as used by loveLife for both the English and Sepedi target groups. Surprisingly, the English participants also showed a greater dislike of their authentic teenage variety compared to Standard English. The Sepedi participants, however, tended to upgrade both their authentic teenage variety and standard Sepedi.

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