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Patterns of Language Use and Language Preference of some Children and their Parents in Botswana

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Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
ISSN: 0143-4632 (Print) 1747-7557 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rmmm20
Patterns of Language Use and Language
Preference of some Children and their Parents in
Botswana
Arua E. Arua & Keoneng Magocha
To cite this article: Arua E. Arua & Keoneng Magocha (2002) Patterns of Language Use and
Language Preference of some Children and their Parents in Botswana, Journal of Multilingual and
Multicultural Development, 23:6, 449-461, DOI: 10.1080/01434630208666479
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01434630208666479
Published online: 29 Mar 2010.
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Patterns of Language Use and Language
Preference of some Children and their
Parents in Botswana
Arua E. Arua
Department of English, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana
Keoneng Magocha
Communication and Study Skills Unit, University of Botswana, Gaborone,
Botswana
This paper examines the patterns of language use and language preference of some
children aged 6–1 5 and their parents at the Univers ity of Botswana . The re sults indicate
that the majority of the children speak Setswana and English, despite the fact that they
come from different language groups. However, Setswana, the national language, is
the more widely spoken. Very few of the children speak languages such as Ikalanga,
Otjihere ro and Sesotho and other minority langua ges. The la nguage prefer ences of the
children and their parents differ. Although many of the children speak two or three
languages, the y prefer only one – Sets wana. However, the pa rents of the childre npre fer
them to s pea k English ra ther than Set swana, e specially in t he school and pl ayground.
They also prefer their children not to speak English at home, although the children
actually do so. Children from other language groups prefer English to their mother
tongues. Generally, the study shows the continued growth of Setswana and English,
and t he gradual decl ine of the other loca l languages, e xcept Ikalanga. The gove rnment
is report ed to be cons idering intr oducing a thi rd language as a me dium of i nstruction in
the hope that it will stop the decline of minority languages.
Introduction
A survey of the studies on the languages in Botswana (see, for example,
Andersson & Jan son, 199 1, 1997; Ba lisi, 1989 ; Batibo, 19 97; Batibo & Smieja, 2 000;
Chebanne et al., 1993; Lukusa, 2000; Mogapi, 1999; Tsonope, 1995; Vossen, 1989)
reveals, for the purpo ses of this paper, t wo major features. Firs t, it shows that the
studies rightly reveal an overwhelming concern for the fate of minority
languages in the country. Second, it shows that the studies, except for Balisi
(1989), do not explicitly discuss the attitudes of the Batswana towards the
languages. This second feature which relates to our main concern is not
surprising, for in an earlier study, Arua and Magocha (2000) had also noted the
neglect. Indeed, th e lack of studies on attitudes to E nglish and other languages is
not confined to Botswana, as Adegbija (1994) has also observed a similar trend
for the whole of Africa . This study therefo re complements s tudies that are begin-
ning to examine more systematically the attitudes of Africans towards the
languages in their countries.
Essentially, the study asks the question: what are the languages that children
use in Botswana today, and are the languages the preferences of the children’s
parents? This question is important for two reasons. The first is that it enables us
to confirm whether the functions tacitly or explicitly assigned to Botswana’s
0143-4632/02/06 0449-13 $20.00/0 © 2002 A.E. Arua & K. Magocha
JOURNAL OF MULTILINGUAL AND MULTICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT Vol. 23, No. 6, 2002
449
Language Use and Language Preference
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languages are the same functions for which the children used in the study
employ the la nguages. Children have been us ed because of the int ention to ascer-
tain whether there have been any shifts in the functional roles of the languages.
Shifts in the roles of the languages would have implications for language plan-
ning.
The second reason is that it enables us to determine to what extent the chil-
dren’s language use and preferences, and the language preferences of their
parents coincide. It is important to determine this because the language use and
preferences of the children and the language preferences of the parents will indi-
cate the attitudes of both groups to the languages in Botswana. However, it is the
attitudes of the parents that are the focus here, as they are more aware of the
intrinsic and extrinsic values the Botswana society attaches to the languages,
which make them to react to them the way they do.
The language use and language preference patterns of the children and their
parents, as well as the other issues raised above, will be discussed presently.
Meanwhile, we discuss briefly the language situation in Botswana in order to put
the study in its proper perspective.
The languages in use in Botswana and the roles assigned to them are well
known. English and Setswana are official languages of unequal status. English
generally has a higher profile than Setswana. Both are used unequally as media
of instruction in schools. The Revised National Policy on Education (RNPE)
(1994) recommends that ‘English should be used as the medium of instruction
from Standard 2 as soon as practicable’ (Rec. 18(a)). Hitherto, English had been
used as a medium of instruction from Standard 5 as Rec. 18(ci) shows. It is clear
then that English should be used exclusively as a medium of instruction from
Standard 2 in the primary school to the tertiary level. Setswana therefore has a
very restricted role as a medium of instruction, since it is now confined to Stan-
dard 1. Setswana, however, serves as a national language and is thus a lingua
franca. An dersson and Jans on (1997) est imate that 8 0% of the Ba tswana speak it.
This figure does not include speakers of Ikalanga and other languages who use
Setswana either as a first or second language. It may well be that the number of
people fr om all the langua ge groups who s peak it is consid erably hi gher than the
figure quoted above.
The other languages in Botswana such as Otjiherero, Ikalanga, Sekgalagadi,
Ndebele and Sesotho are minority languages, because only a very small
percentage of the population speaks each of them. Based on Andersson and
Janson’s (1997) figures, t he most prominent minori ty language that is used by an
estimated 11% of the population is Ikalanga. The language is restricted to
northern Botswana, where it serves as an unofficial regional lingua franca.
Although all the minority languages are used to some extent in domains such as
offices and especially the Kgotla (a traditiona l meeting place) in their respective
regions, they do not have official status. Apparently, tacitly, the languages have
been confined principally to the home.
Methodology
The dat a for the study w ere collected thr ough a questionna ire administered t o
some parents of children aged between 6 and 15. As indicated earlier, the ques-
450 Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
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tionnaire sought the responses of the parents to the patterns of their children’s
language use and language preference. In instances where respondents had
more than one child, the typical language behaviour of the children was
requested. If the children manifested radically different language behaviours,
then the respondent was asked to indicate the differences.
Data were collected from parents mainly for two reasons. First, the children’s
age differences preclu ded a uniform means of c ollecting the da ta from them. It is
not rea sonable to expect 6–7 year olds to a rticulate their v iews on la nguage use in
Botswana as effectively as 12–15 year olds. Second, direct observation of the chil-
dren was no t possible, as the data were no t collected in a class room-like situation,
where children can be observed fairly easily. For these reasons, parents were
asked to repor t on the language use and la nguage preferences of their child ren as
well a s on their own la nguage preferences thr ough a questionn aire administ ered
to them. The limitations of the use of the questionnaire, including its low return
rate and the provision of responses respondents think are acceptable to
researchers, to elicit behavioural data are fairly well known. Nevertheless, our
view is that in spite of its limitations and the limitations arising from asking
parents to report the language behaviour of their children, the questionnaire is
the most viable way of collecting the data required for the study. Readers should
note these methodological limitations as they review the results of this study.
The section of the questionnaire relevant to the paper contains the following
instructions and questions:
Please list all the languages spoken by your child(ren).
Which of them is the preferred language of your child(ren)?
List other languages not mentioned above in the order in which your
child(ren) prefers to use them.
Which language is predominantly used by your child(ren)
(a) In school?
(b) At home?
(c) With peers?
Which language is your child(ren) most proficient in (if your child speaks
more than one language)?
Where neces sary, as with the la st question, parents were as ked to give reasons or
provide ex planations for t heir responses. This was done t o improve the research
design of t he study, for a s Adegbija (19 94) has obs erved, impressi onistic or uns o-
phisticated research designs are the bane of most language attitude or language
use studies in sub-Saharan Africa. Asking parents to explain their responses
enabled th em to bring to bea r on the study their k nowledge of the language situa -
tion in Botswana. It also enabled the researchers to understand the extent to
which parents understood what they were required to do.
The questionnaire was administered to employees of the University of
Botswana. The university’s staff is made up of people of diverse educational,
ethnic, professional and socio-economic backgrounds. The large majority of
people in the population sample are Batswana who speak different dialects of
Setswana. Other respondents speak Ikalanga, Ndebele, Sesotho, Afrikaans and
other foreign languages. It was th ought that people o f such diverse backgro unds
should be able to respond adequately to the issues raised in the questionnaire.
Language Use and Language Preference 451
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However , the amount o f data collected w as small because of t he age restri ction of
6–15 yea rs. It was d ifficult to find pa rents who had chi ldren of the st ipulated ages
who were willing to fill in the questionnaire.
In spite of the difficulty highlight ed above, 76 respondents returned the ques-
tionnaires. After discarding questionnaires that were not properly filled out,
only 67 o f them were analysed for th is study. Of the 76 res pondents, 30 were ma le
and 46 were female. The ages o f the respond ents ranged from 21 to 51 . The largest
age group was composed of those in the 31–40 range (32 respondents), followed
by those in the age group 21–30 (21 respondents), 41–50 (20) and 50–60 (3). Their
educational qualifications ranged from PhD to MA, Bachelor’s degree, Higher
National Diploma, Cambridge, Junior Certificate, Primary School Certificate, to
those with incomplete Primary Education, or no formal education. Their profes-
sions a lso varied. There were lecturers, ad ministrators, sec retaries, accountants,
librarians, security personnel, cleaners, cooks and some technical staff.
Generally speaking, then, the respondents are enlightened people who
normally keep pace with the topical issues of the day. This is especially so
because of the environment in which they operate. It is expected then that the
results of the study, while not entirely representative of the broad range of
people found in Botswana, would point to the language use and language prefer-
ence trends, especially in the urban ar easof the count ry. The results of the survey
are presented and discussed in the following section.
Discussion
The dis cussion is in two pa rts: the actua l language use and preference pat terns
of the children and the language preference patterns that the parents would like
to see emerging in their children’s language use.
Children’s language use and preference patterns
This section is described under several headings. These are the patterns of the
languages used by the children, their language preferences, language profi-
ciency and the languages they use in the domains of school, home and play-
ground.
Patterns of language used by the children
Four patterns of language use are evident in Table 1. By far the most predomi-
nant language use pattern is Setswana +English (as 65.67% of the respondents
indicate). This two-language pattern is not surprising, as Botswana is officially
bilingual in Setswa na and English. Som e of the respo ndents contend t hat the two
languages , especially Sets wana, are s ufficient for their child ren’s communi cative
needs. As the table shows, 96% and 90% of the respondents indicate that their
children spea k Setswana and Eng lish respectively. This implies that Botsw ana is
a bilingual community where t he majority of children are fluent in either or both
of the official languages. In the future, Botswana may not need the other
languages. In this sense, then, the risk of other languages disappearing – an idea
that has caused some of the speakers of and researchers on languages other than
Setswana and English considerable concern – becomes very real indeed.
The next dom inant pattern is th at of Setswana +English +additiona l language
(22.38%). The third language in the three-language pattern is any of Ikalanga,
452 Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
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Sesotho, Ndebele, Afrikaans, French and Spanish. The pattern is the natural
outcome for speakers of minority languages, for not only do they need to speak
Setswana ,t he national language a nd English, generally the m edium of educati on
in most schools, they need a language that shows their ethnic backgrounds.
Ikalanga is certainly the largest minority ethnic group. This fact is not only
shown in the 11.94% of respondents in Table 1 (a figure similar to that cited in
Andersson & Janson, 1997), but also in the statistics of the numbers of people
speaking the different languages. Going by the number of parents who say that
their children speak Ikalanga, the generally held view in Botswana that it is one
of the minority languages facing extinction may be false (see also Andersson &
Janson, 1991: 48). We shall return to this issue presently.
The next language use pattern is one in which some children (as 5.97% of the
parents indicate) speak only one language. Two alternative reasons may be
adduced fo r this interesting patt ern. The first is th at the children involved do not
attend school. This reason is not plausible, because education in government
primary schools in Botswana is free. Also university staff, including cleaners,
should be able to afford scho ol uniforms and shoes, which are items that parents
should be able to provide for their children. The second more plausible explana-
tion is that the medium of instruction in government schools is Setswana. As we
have already shown, English becomes the medium of instruction from Standard
5, although the RNPE of 1994 fixed its use from Standard 2. It is obvious that the
expected switch from Setswana to English from Standard 5 to Standard 2 is yet to
occur.
The last language pattern is Setswana +English +Ikalanga +Sekgalagadi.
This language pattern is rare when compared to the others. But it is not unex-
pected that such a pattern would exist in a multilingual nation such as Botswana.
The language pattern is certainly the result of population mobility.
Patterns of children’s language preference
Two patterns emerge from the results in this section. A negligible percentage
of the respondents (4.4 7%) indicate tha t their children show a preference pa ttern
Language Use and Language Preference 453
Pattern of languages
spoken
Names of languages No. of respondents
(67)
%
1 Setswana 4 5.97
2 Setswana + English 44 65.67
3 Setswana + English + Ikalanga 8 11.94
Setswana + English + Sesotho 3 4.48
Setswana + English + Ndebele 1 1.49
Setswana + English + Afrikaans 1 1.49
Setswana + English + French 1 1.49
Setswana + English + Spanish 1 1.49
4 Setswana + English + Ikalanga +
Sekgalagadi
1 1.49
No response 3 4.48
Table 1 Patterns of children’s language use
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of two languages. As is to be expected, the two languages are Setswana and
English.
The more dominant pattern is one in which the children prefer one language.
Setswana is the most preferred (65.67%). This basically is a question of the
number o f natural speakers of the langua ge. English is next in rank . It is apparent
that at 26.86% some Setswana, Ikalanga and speakers of the other minority
languages in Botswana prefer to speak English than they do their mother
tongues. However, Ikalanga is the only minority mother tongue that appears in
the data, although it seems that many Kalanga children prefer English to
Ikalanga. The children of the other minority languages which appear in the data,
apparently, do not like to use their languages. This situation does not bode well
for the survival of these minority languages. In a later section – ‘Patterns of
parents’ language preferences’ – which discusses the languages the parents
prefer their children to s peak, we will see whether this pr eference pat tern is repli-
cated.
Patterns of children’s language proficiency
Language proficiency, as defined by the majority of the parents used in the
study, m eans to ‘use speech fluently and in such as wa y that it effectively conveys
intended meanings or messa ges’ (see A rua & Mago cha, 2000 : 284). This concept
of proficiency encompasses the notions of grammatical correctness and commu-
nicative competence, while taking into account the differing levels of language
development of the children used in the study. The use of the respondents
notion of language proficiency is, in our view, motivated. There was no need to
prescribe multiple language proficiency criteria for the parents. It was enough,
for our purposes, for the parents to feel that their children spoke or used their
languages (the local languages and English) well. That is not to say that the
parents did not bring to bear on the situation their understanding of what it
means t o speak any of the lan guages well. They d id, and that is wh y they are able
to compare their children’s proficiency levels across languages.
The pat terns of the children’ s language profic iency replicate tho se of language
preference. The majority of children are proficient in Setswana (61.19%). Not all
children who pr efer English (26 .86%) are profic ient in it (17. 91%). All the c hildren
who prefer Sets wana and Englis h (4.47%) appea r to be pro ficient in them (5.97 %).
The prefer ence and pro ficiency levels for Ikalanga are the same. O ne respondent
indicated that his/her child is proficient in French although the child does not
prefer it. Some parents (10.45%) did not respond to the question on language
proficiency, either because they did not know the proficiency levels of the
languages their children speak or because they were not able to compare profi-
ciency levels across languages.
454 Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Pattern of languages Names of languages No. of respondents
(67)
%
1 Setswana 44 65.67
English 18 26.86
Ikalanga 2 2.98
2 Setswana + English 3 4.47
Table 2 Patterns of children’s language preference
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Patterns of language use in specified domains
The res ults for the languag es the children us e in school, home and playgrou nd
are given in Table 4.
The patterns of language use are more graphically presented in Figure 1. Two
patterns are apparent in the Table 4 and Figure 1. The first is one in which only
one language is used in the domains specified, and the second is the simulta-
neous use of two languages. In the first pattern, it is clear that Setswana is the
language of the home and the playground (59.70% of the respondents indicate
this). Ikalanga is basically a language used at home (4.47%). It is not used in
school because the Education Policy does not allow its use. It is also not used in
the playground, possibly because the respondents live in an area that is domi-
nated by Setswana. And since they understand Setswana as well, they do not
need to use Ikalanga. The results clearly indicate that English is the language of
the school, a result that supports the dominant role of English in the educational
system i n Botswana .Sets wana is als o used in sch ool (10.45% – see a lso the second
pattern).
In the second pattern, hardly any of the combinations of Setswana and
Ikalanga, and Setswana and Afrikaans are used in any of the identified domains.
And in instances where they are cited, they are confined to the home and play-
ground. Appreciable use is, however, made of the Setswana +English combina-
tion, especially in the domains of the school and home. All this serves to confirm
the pre-eminence of Setswana and English in Botswana.
The simultaneous use especially of Setswana and English in the domains of
school, home and playground indicates the possibility of code-switching
Language Use and Language Preference 455
Pattern of languages Names of languages No. of respondents
(67)
%
1 Setswana 41 61.19
English 12 17.91
Ikalanga 2 2.98
French 1 1.49
2 Setswana + English 4 5.97
No response 7 10.45
Table 3 Patterns of children’s language proficiency
Pattern of
languages
Names of languages No. of respondents (67)
School Home Playground
No. %No. % No. %
1 Setswana 7 10.45 40 59.70 40 59.70
English 36 53.73 6 8.96 9 13.43
Ikalanga 0 3 4.47 0
2 Setswana + English 13 19.40 11 16.42 6 8.96
Setswana + Ikalanga 0 0 1 1.49
Setswana + Afrikaans 0 1 1.49 0
No response 11 16.42 6 8.96 11 16.42
Table 4 Patterns of language use in specified domains
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between English and the local languages. Code-switching is, of course, a wide-
spread phenomenon in Botswana as it is in countries where two or more
languages are in contact. Arua and Magocha (2000: 287) have, in fact, observed
that high school teachers inevitably code-switch between English and the local
languages in their classrooms in Botswana. However, while code-switching
occurs in various formal and non-formal domains, it is not regarded as a
language, and is, therefore, not considered in this study, which focuses only on
the recognised languages of Botswana. Nevertheless, it is a very important
aspect of the sociolinguistic m ake up of bilingual and multilin gual societies. It is
thus a subject worth studying in Botswana as it has been in other bilingual and
multilingual communities.
The results discussed so far confirm that the children’s la nguage use and pref-
erences con form t o the roles whic h the languages have been ass igned both tacit ly
and explicitly in the language policy document. In other words, using the results
of this study as a measuring instrument, it may be concluded that the govern-
ment has been succes sful in respec t of its la nguage policy in Botsw ana. The q ues-
tion to address now is whether the parents of the children whose language use,
preferences and proficiency we have discussed are in agreement with the
language use and preferences of their children.
Patterns of parents’ language preference
This section identifies the patterns of the language preference of the parents.
The pa tterns indicate t he language roles that parent s want to reinfor ce or change.
The first part of the discussion deals with the overall language preference
patterns of the parents for their children, and the second, their preference
patterns in the specified domains of school, home and playground.
456 Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
(1) Setswana (2) English (3) Ikalanga (4) English + Setswana (5) Setswana + Ikalanga
(6) Setswana + Afrikaans (7) No response
P a tt e rn s o f c h il d r e n s l a n g u a g e p r e fe r e n c e i n s p e c if i e d
dom ains
0
5
1 0
1 5
2 0
2 5
3 0
3 5
4 0
4 5
1234567
Pattern of languages
No. of responden ts
S c h o o l
H o m e
P l a y g ro u n d
Figure 1 Patterns of children’s language preference in specified domains
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Patterns of overall language preference of parents
It is clear that the overall preference patterns of parents are at variance with
the patterns of language use, preference and proficiency of their children. The
majority of children (65.67%) use the Setswana +English pattern. However,
while an overwhelming majority of children prefer to speak Setswana (65.67%)
and are in deed more pr oficient in th e language (61. 19%) than in Englis h (17.91% ),
the m ajority of pa rents (52.2 4%) prefer their children t o speak Englis h (see Ta ble
5). In the two- a nd three-languag e patterns also found in Ta ble 5, English featur es
prominently. This response pattern is not surprising. There are many studies in
Botswana and other countries where English is a second language, which indi-
cate the locals’ preference for English over the indigenous languages, because of
the advantages it co nfers on it s speakers (see, for example, Adegbija, 1994; Arua
& Magocha, 2000; Balisi, 1989; Kunene, 1997).
The res ults here indicate that English will continue to pla y a leading rol e in all
aspects of th e life of the people. Now let us exa mine the patterns of preference for
the languages in specified domains.
Parental language preference in specified domains
The patterns of parental language preference in the school, home and play-
ground are presented in Table 6. Again, the results in the Table are more graphi-
cally presented in Figure 2.
Table 6 shows that there are four patterns of language preference. These
patterns are somewhat similar to the patterns of the language use of the children
(see Table 1) and their lang uage preference pattern s. In the one-la nguage patter n,
the same three languages preferred by the children are thos ethat the parents also
prefer. For the two-language pattern, neither the children (Table 2) nor their
parents (Table 6) prefer languages other than Setswana +English. Of the six
three-language combinations in the three language pattern (Table 1), there was
only one respondent who indicated that the child preferred the Setswana +
English +Ikalanga combination and one that indicated that s/he prefers
Setswana +English +Afrikaans. All the other languages spoken by the children,
except Ndebele, do not feature at all in either the children’s or their
parents’preferences. It would be surprising indeed, if the results imply that the
parents suggest that these languages should not play any roles in the school,
home or playground. The last pattern is one that indicates that all languages in
Botswana should be used in the playground.
Language Use and Language Preference 457
Pattern of languages Names of languages preferred No. of respondents
(67)
Percent
1 Setswana 12 17.91
English 35 52.24
Ikalanga 4 5.97
2 Setswana + English 7 10.45
3 Setswana + English +Ikalanga 1 1.49
None 1 1.49
No response 7 10.45
Table 5 Patterns of language preference of parents
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The parents’ one-language preference pattern has some interesting results.
80.59 % of the pa rents prefer their child ren to spea k English in s chool. A c onsider-
able n umber (40.30%) also prefer their children to use more English outside the
home. In this respect, more parents indicate a preference for English over
Setswana (22.39%) in the playground for their children. There is a clear indica-
tion here that parents want an expanded role for English both in and outside of
school. This is especially so because the number of parents indicating that they
458 Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
(1) Setswana (2) English (3) Ikalanga (4) Setswana + English (5) Ikalanga + English
(6) Setswana + Ndebele (7) Setswana + Ikalanga (8) Setswana + English + Afrikaans
(9) All languages in Botswana (10) No response
Parental language preferences in specified domains
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
12345678910
Pattern of languages
No. of repondents
School
Hom e
Playground
Figure 2 Parental language preference in specified domains
Pattern of
languages
Names of languages No. of respondents (67)
School Home Playground
No. % No. % No. %
1 Setswana 1 1.49 26 38.80 15 22.39
English 54 80.59 0 – 27 40.30
Ikalanga 0 6 8.96 1 1.49
2 Setswana + English 6 8.96 18 26.87 11 16.42
Ikalanga + English 0 9 13.43 0
Setswana + Ndebele 0 1 1.49 0
Setswana + Ikalanga 0 0 1 1.49
3 Setswana + English
+ Afrikaans
0 – 0 – 1 1.49
4 All languages in
Botswana
0 – 0 – 2 2.99
No response 6 8.96 7 10.45 9 13.43
Table 6 Patterns of parental language preference
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prefer their children to use English generally is much less than the number that
indicate preference for English in the school and just slightly higher than those
who indicate a preference for English in the playground. It is interesting to note
that parents do not want English to play any role in the home. Not a single
respondent indicated a preference for English in the home, although some chil-
dren use it in that domain (see Table 4). Parents have therefore made a very clear
demarcation of the domains in which English and Setswana are to be used in
Botswana.
Preference for Setswana in the home and playground is unexpectedly muted.
Fewer parents indicate a preference for Setswana in the home and playground
(Table 6) than those who indicate that their children use it in these domains
(Table 4). This does not necessarily mean that parents are advocating a dimin-
ishing of the role ass igned to Setswana in th e home and playground. It may indi-
cate, as already highlighted, a desire for the expansion of the roles assigned to
English.
For Ika langa, the results are surprising. No respondent ind icated a preference
for the use of Ikalanga in schools. Against the background of the agitation for
increased official and educational roles for Ikalanga and other languages, we
thought that the results would indicate this growing agitation. However, twice
as many parents prefer their children to use Ikalanga in the home and play-
ground (Table 6) than those who indicate that their children use the language in
these domains (Table 4). This shows the desire of parents to promote Ikalanga,
although not within the framework of the Education Policy.
The two-language preference pattern has a total of four two-language selec-
tions: Setsw ana +English, Ika langa +English, Sets wana +Ndebele and Setsw ana
+Ikalanga. Only one respondent each indicates a preference for the use of
Setswana +Ndebele and Setswana +Ikalanga in the home and playground
respectively. The Ikalanga +English pattern replicates the pattern already noted
for Ikalan ga. The Ikalanga paren ts used in the stud y want the langua ge pattern to
be used only in the home, not the school and not the playground. This result
should be taken seriously, especially as the Ikalanga respondents who indicate
this are about 13.43% of the total number of respondents sampled. For the
Setswana +En glish pattern, quite a number of respo ndents prefer the use of both
languages in all the dom ains. One of the inferences to be drawn is tha t they prefer
not to use E nglish alone in the ho me (see the result fo r English in patt ern 1), rather
English must be used in conjunction with Setswana in that domain. The last two
patterns (Setswana +English +Afrikaans and all the languages in Botswana) are
preferred by very few respondents (1 and 2 respectively for the playground).
Some Implications of the Study
The s tudy has implic ations for the roles alrea dy assigned to var ious languages
and for the attitudes of the parents used in the study to the languages they speak.
Some such implications are summarised below.
The national language question
In the view of the parents, the national language question is an issue that
appears t o be settled. An ess ential chara cter of a nat ional language is tha t it serves
Language Use and Language Preference 459
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as a lingua franca. A lingua franca is a language that is mass oriented. That is
exactly w hat Setswana is. Ho wever, mas s orientation is not mer ely in terms of the
large num ber of people who speak it, but also in terms of its cutting across ethn ic
boundaries. The attitude of acceptance of Setswana as the national language is
also clear , not only i n statistic al terms (96% o f the respon dents indica te that their
children speak it), but also in the pattern of the responses to the use of the
language in various domains in Botswana.
The survival of minority languages
One interesting aspect of this study is that of the local languages (Setswana,
Ikalanga, Sesotho, Ndebele) spoken by the children used in the study, none of
them, except Setswana and Ikalanga, is preferred or used in any of the domains
identified for this study by the children. The question that arises is how the
minority languages are going to survive when the children for whom they are
natura l mother to ngues do not prefer to speak them . An add itional complic ation
is that the parents (the owners of the languages) do not prefer their children to
speak the languages even in the home and the playground. With this negative
attitude to the languages identified, it is fairly certain that in the future the
growth of some of the languages will be stunted further, unless the government
approves them for use in some (quasi-) official capacity.
The language of instruction in Botswana
Another interesting aspect of the study is that the respondents (of which an
appreciable number is Kalanga) ignore Ikalanga (and the other local languages)
as a candidate for use as a medium of instruction in Botswana’s schools. One of
the amendments proposed to the National Commission on Education in 1993 is
that
children in pre-prim ary schools should be taught in the language dominant
in the area where the school is located. English and Setswana should be
introduced gradually. (RNPE: 84)
The recommendation was rejected on the basis that it was ‘contrary to
language policy’ (p. 85). However, in spite of the rejection, the agitation for the
adoptio n of minority languages as media of instruc tion has continued, a s recom-
mendation 5 on page 3 of the draft recommendations of the 4th Biennial confer-
ence of the National Conference on Teacher Education (2000) shows. Evidence
that the government is thinking of reversing its rejection (indicated above) is
found in Motlaloso (2001: 4). Apparently the government wants a consultant to
study th e feasibility of int roducing a third langu age as a medium of inst ruction in
Botswana’s schools.
Conclusion
The study has shown the patterns of language use of children aged 6–15 and
the pat terns of language preference of bo th the children an d their parents. One of
the major findings of the study is that the people used in the study are satisfied
with the roles assigned to the various languages in Botswana. English should be
the primary m edium of i nstruction in Bo tswana. Setsw ana should cont inue to be
460 Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
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the na tional languag e and s hould be us ed to so me extent a s a med ium of ins truc-
tion. Kalanga should be a language confined to the home and playground. The
consequences of maintaining the status quo are clear. While English and
Setswana grow from strength to strength, the other languages will continue to
diminish with the possible lurking result of language death in the future. In view
of the foregoing, this study recommends the expansion of the roles of local
languages other than Setswana in order to improve their chances of survival.
Correspondence
Any correspondence should be directed to Dr Arua E. Arua, Department of
English, Univ ersity of Bot swana, Gaborone, Bot swana (aruaae@mo pipi.ub.bw).
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Language Use and Language Preference 461
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... Language use is also beginning to shift in Botswana. Arua & Magocha (2002) examined language use in students at the University of Botswana and found that the majority of respondents were fluent in both Setswana and English. However, they most widely spoke Setswana when speaking with each other, even though parents preferred them to speak English. ...
Article
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The paper reports a positive shift in the attitudes of some Batswana towards the local variety of English here described as Botswana English. The new attitude is the result of familiarity with the variety in the last decade or so. It is also the result of the belief that the variety is inherently good and that its users, especially children, use it in a communicatively competent manner. In addition, the respondents believe that not only is the variety not inferior to others – native or non-native – but that it can be understood by speech communities that speak English anywhere in the world. Finally, the respondents are satisfied that the variety is of a quality that can be used for educational purposes in Botswana, although the implications of its use are yet to be addressed.
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An informative sociolinguistic and sociopolitical description and analysis of language attitudes in sub-Saharan Africa. The book emphasizes the strong ideological and polemical view that multilingualism in sub-Saharan Africa should seen as a resource and an asset. It argues, therefore, that African indigenous languages need to empowered for greater functions to ensure effective mass mobilization, literacy, and total and original self-actualization.
Languages and language use among students at the University of Botswana
  • L Andersson
  • T Janson
Andersson, L. and Janson, T. (1991) Languages and language use among students at the University of Botswana. Maraang 9, 42-51.
Languages in Botswana: Language Ecology in Southern Africa
  • L Andersson
  • T Janson
Andersson, L. and Janson, T. (1997) Languages in Botswana: Language Ecology in Southern Africa. Gaborone: Longman.
Language attitudes in Gaborone: English vis-à-vis Setswana
  • M O Balisi
Balisi, M.O. (1989) Language attitudes in Gaborone: English vis-à-vis Setswana. BA project report, University of Botswana.
The Fate of Minority Languages of Botswana
  • H M Batibo
Batibo, H.M. (1997) The Fate of Minority Languages of Botswana. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
The impact of language policy on education in Botswana
  • A Chebanne
  • J Tsonope
  • L Nyati-Ramohobo
Chebanne, A., Tsonope, J. and Nyati-Ramohobo, L. (1993) The impact of language policy on education in Botswana. Mosenodi: Journal of the Botswana Educational Research Association 1, 13-23.
Government Paper No. 2: The Revised National Policy on Education
  • Government
  • Botswana
Government of Botswana (1994) Government Paper No. 2: The Revised National Policy on Education. Gaborone: Government Printer.
Official languages of unequal status: The case of siSwati and English
  • E C L Kunene
Kunene, E.C.L. (1997) Official languages of unequal status: The case of siSwati and English. Paper presented at the 2nd World Congress of African Linguistics, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, 27th July -3rd August.
The Shekgalagadi struggle for survival: Aspects of language maintenance and shift
  • S Lukusa
Lukusa, S. (2000) The Shekgalagadi struggle for survival: Aspects of language maintenance and shift. In H.M. Batibo and B. Smieja (eds) Botswana: The Future of the Minority Languages. Essen: Peter Lang.