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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 19, 2020

“English is the best way to communicate” - South African Indian students’ blind spot towards the relevance of Zulu

  • Sana Jeewa EMAIL logo and Stephanie Rudwick EMAIL logo
From the journal Sociolinguistica


The South African University of KwaZulu-Natal has developed an ambitious language policy aiming “to achieve for isiZulu the institutional and academic status of English” (UKZN LP 2006/2014). Part of this ambition is a mandatory Zulu language module that all undergraduate students have to pass if they cannot prove knowledge of the language. In this article, we examine attitudes of South African Indian students towards this compulsory module against the strained history and relationship between Zulu and Indian people in the province. Situated within the approach of Language Management Theory (LMT), our focus is on students as micro level actors who are affected by a macro level policy decision. Methodologically combining quantitative and qualitative tools, we attempt to find answers to the following broad question: What attitudes do South African Indian students have towards Zulu more generally and the UKZN module more specifically? The empirical findings show that students’ motivations to learn Zulu are more instrumental than integrative as the primary goal is to ‘pass’ the module. South African Indian students have developed a blind spot for the prevalence and significance of Zulu in the country which impacts negatively on the general attitudes towards the language more general and the module more specifically. Language ideologies that elevate the status of English in the country further hamper the success of Zulu language learning.


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Published Online: 2020-11-19
Published in Print: 2020-11-25

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