Learning and Forgetting: The Use of Languages in the Diaspora

By Giasuma Kamuangu.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper aims to investigate the ways in which immigrant children in four DRC families from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) living in South Africa (SA) learn languages in the diaspora and how they come to forget others. Specifically, it explores whether or not parents from the DRC encourage their children to speak homeland languages in SA, and, the conditions under which these languages do or don’t disappear in the children’s language repertoires. It has been shown that affective parameters such as motivation, investment, self-confidence, positive attitudes and anxiety (Peirce 1995; Gardner 1985; Krashen 1982) have a crucial impact on learning the host society’s languages. While self-confidence develops as a result of positive experiences in the diaspora, thus motivating individual members to learn the language of schooling in South Africa (in most/all cases, English), anxiety emerges from social distance this creates between the immigrant families and the local African population. This exclusion (also self-imposed), together with unequal relations of power in the South African society, plays a crucial role in relation to which languages are learnt and which ones are forgotten. However, the frequency of English in daily interactions, particularly at school, coupled with unsustainable strategies for maintaining DRC languages at home, limits opportunities for the children to develop full competence in their parents’ homeland languages. Such inability causes children to forget DRC languages while preferring the language of education and perceived opportunity in South Africa.

Keywords: Language, Learning, Immigration, Ethnicity, Identity

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp.45-52. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 561.347KB).

Dr. Giasuma Kamuangu

Post-doctoral Fellow, Applied English Language Studies, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Wits University, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

Dr. Giasuma Kamuangu has just completed his PhD Thesis under Prof Hilary Janks on language, immigration, and ethnicity:..'. His past publications were based on the teaching of English for Business and General English in his home country, the DR Congo, and on learning material development. He has taught General English and English for Business (Tertiary Education)in his home country, the DR Congo, and 'Business communication' in the Wits School of Accountancy and ‘Foundation English’ in the Department of Applied English Language Studies, Wits University. His current research interests include: family language policies, use of languages in the immigrant churches, language and ethnicity in the context of SA immigration, language and identity. He is currently a short-term post-doctoral fellow in the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences in the University of the Wiwatersrand, Johannesburg.


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