South africa has eleven languages

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In the past all of the languages were not awarded equal status and this lead to numerous barriers with regarding languages in the schools of today (Department of Education: 2002). After the Apartheid years, several changes have begun to take place with regard to language in education. This, to a great extent has been positive. Yet for the country to achieve greater success in education it is important that education development continually improves (Department of Education: 2002).

The Department of Education recognizes and embraces the cultural diversity in South Africa. To maintain such diversity, certain aspects within education are promoted. These include multilingualism, development of the languages, and common respect for all languages spoken in South Africa (Department of Education: 1997). Even though they do acknowledge these, there are still numerous obstacles that have to be overcome.

One of the obstacles that are still evident in South African schools is the learners' ability to read and write in the English language. The English language is South Africa's and the world's primary language for education and trade. For a learner to be successful at school and in his or her future at a workplace, it is important that he or she will be able to read and write effectively in the English language (Lea, Gautango: 2007). Every subject at school and university requires that learners are able to read English. There are many reading materials available for each subject that can be used to further develop understanding in each learning area. When a learner understands what he or she is reading, it will improve his or her grammar and spelling as well as their level of vocabulary in the language.

In certain township schools in South Africa learners only pay a minimal amount of school fees per year. When educators are payed too little, they are not very motivated to do their work effectively and this may lead them to give poor and low levels of education to their students. They will generally do very little work to help the learners become successful at reading and improving their skills (Killen, R. 2000). In my teaching practical at the beginning of the year I found that there were many grade two learners who could not even name or pronounce the letters of the alphabet properly and this is something that should have been addressed in grade one already.

It is important to realise that even though English is an international language and used as the primary language for education and trade, it is not the home language of many South African citizens. Bantu children are generally educated in the English language, which is their second or even third language. There exists a language barrier between educators and learners where educators find it difficult to explain the work to learners, whose home language is not English or the language in which the educator is fluent (Lea, Gautango: 2007). During my teaching practical at the beginning of the year I found that when learners do not have a clear enough understanding of the English language, they struggle to complete their school work effectively.

It is difficult to meet the needs of every single learner in South Africa because of the great diversity. In the rural areas this is a great problem. It is difficult to find enough educators of all of the eleven official languages to teach children in their own home language (Lea, Gautango: 2007). Studies have shown that learners who are taught in their home language, achieve higher marks in tests than learners who are not taught in their home language (Heugh n.d.: 6).

Another obstacle which may cause learners not to read as much as they should that I have clearly identified in my community engagement project is technology (Butcher 2009: 3). In the "MXit project" (DR LOLS), we engage with grade seven learners in the subject area Life Orientation. We do not see the learners face to face but we speak to them on our computers over the internet. They then reply to us by using their mobile phones. A language problem is clearly identified. The youth of today would rather watch television or spend their time on Mxit talking to their friends than reading a book. This has an effect on their spelling and grammar. Then they speak to us they mostly type in "sms language", they do not spell correctly and their sentence construction mostly does not make sense. This is a problem because they do not learn the correct spelling of words. In my teaching practice at the beginning of the year I could also see this clearly as the learners spelled using sms language in essays, letters and other formal writings.

Learners often get discouraged from reading. This may because of numerous reasons, one of which may be that the educators do not place enough emphasis on reading and that they themselves are not enthusiastic about reading. Learners should continuously be encouraged to read, and this responsibility to a great extent lies with the educator (Immelman: 2010).

There are a few strategies that educators can use to ensure better understanding when teaching learners whose home language is not their language of instruction. They can focus on speaking slower and more clearly, and they should frequently ask if the learners do or do not understand. They should also avoid using idioms as learners of other home languages might not have been taught those idioms. Most of all, the educators should remain patient with all learners (Berardo, K: 2007).

As an educator, I realise that effective reading is very important for all learners. If a learner is not able to read with sufficient understanding it will affect their schooling career and therefore I will spend much more time on reading with the learners in my class. I will spend at least one or two hours per day on literacy and I will give the learners a sufficient amount of homework on the subject. I will also take the learners to the library and continually encourage them to read more often.

In South Africa it is virtually impossible that every child be taught in his or her home language, and therefore another solution has to be found. I would prioritize reading in the English language as well as their home language more in first few years of a child's schooling career than what is currently happening. This alone would have a great impact on the levels of language of the learners. Their sentence construction, vocabulary and spelling will improve dramatically.

Educators have the ability to improve the current success of the country regarding education. They should take up that responsibility and put in enough effort to improve the quality of education in South Africa continually.

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