Use of English challenges faced by isiZulu-speaking students in the business context in South Africa was the focus of research by a doctoral candidate.
Ms Bulelwa Nyangiwe, a lecturer at Mangosuthu University of Technology in Durban, graduated with her PhD in Linguistics from UKZN.
Her study investigated the challenges isiZulu-speaking students faced with various strategies and techniques written business correspondence in English in South Africa.
In her study, Nyangiwe supports the decolonisation of tertiary teaching and transformation and the promotion of African languages. The work also explores how isiZulu politeness strategies in speech can assist in developing practical business writing skills in the business context in English.
‘In a multilingual country, like South Africa, where the use of English is dominant in all spheres of life, including education, there is a need to address this challenge by incorporating the use of African indigenous languages, which are also recognised as official languages,’ she said.
The findings attest to the students’ competence and pragmatic knowledge in both English and isiZulu. Yet, they struggle with performing crucial language functions (transactional and interactional) in English. The resulting recommendations demonstrate how pragmatic competence in the first language may be acknowledged and used to improve business correspondence and intercultural communication.
Nyangiwe believes her research will benefit society and contribute to the field of English Language Teaching in the South African context, since it compares the use of speech acts in two South African languages.
‘Hopefully, this research will also be useful in creating awareness for the future planning of English second language teaching methods in South Africa and internationally. It is also envisaged that the research findings may lead to critical reflections on the relationships between English and isiZulu politeness constructions and strategies in business communication.
She advised other students ‘to plan, manage time effectively, and have a good working relationship with your supervisor following their guidance and advice throughout. Working consistently and staying focused are the key aspects in completing a PhD.’
Nyangiwe thanked her family, friends and supervisor Professor Heike Tappe for their support.
She is keen on supervising students in their research projects and publishing articles on her research. She is also planning to form a collaboration as a community project with business organisations to assist English second language employees who experience challenges in written business communication.