FET English Home Language

Language is a tool for thought and communication. It is also a cultural and aesthetic means commonly shared among a people to make better sense of the world they live in. Learning to use language effectively enables learners to acquire knowledge, to express their identity, feelings and ideas, to interact with others, and to manage their world. It also provides learners with a rich, powerful and deeply rooted set of images and ideas that can be used to make their world other than it is; better and clearer than it is. It is through language that cultural diversity and social relations are expressed and constructed, and it is through language that such constructions can be altered, broadened and refined.

Language levels

Language learning in Grades 10-12 includes all the official languages in South Africa, namely, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi (Sesotho sa Leboa), Sesotho, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, as well as Non-official Languages. These languages can be offered at different language levels.

Home Language is the language first acquired by learners. However, many South African schools do not offer the home languages of some or all of the enrolled learners but rather have one or two languages offered at Home Language level. As a result, the labels Home Language and First Additional Language refer to the proficiency levels at which the language is offered and not the native (Home) or acquired (as in the additional languages) language. For the purposes of this policy, any reference to Home Language should be understood to refer to the level and not the language itself.

The Home Language level provides for language proficiency that reflects the mastery of basic interpersonal communication skills required in social situations and the cognitive academic skills essential for learning across the curriculum. Emphasis is placed on the teaching of the listening, speaking, reading and writing skills at this language level. This level also provides learners with a literary, aesthetic and imaginative ability that will provide them with the ability to recreate, imagine, and empower their understandings of the world they live in. However, the emphasis and the weighting for listening and speaking from Grades 7 onwards are lower than those of the reading and writing skills.

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Specific aims of learning languages

Learning a language should enable learners to:

  • acquire the language skills required for academic learning across the curriculum;
  • listen, speak, read/view and write/present the language with confidence and enjoyment. These skills and attitudes form the basis for life-long learning;
  • use language appropriately, taking into account audience, purpose and context;
  • express and justify, orally and in writing, their own ideas, views and emotions confidently in order to become independent and analytical thinkers;
  • use language and their imagination to find out more about themselves and the world around them. This will enable them to express their experiences and findings about the world orally and in writing.
  • use language to access and manage information for learning across the curriculum and in a wide range of other contexts. Information literacy is a vital skill in the ‘information age’ and forms the basis for life-long learning; and
  • use language as a means for critical and creative thinking; for expressing their opinions on ethical issues and values; for interacting critically with a wide range of texts; for challenging the perspectives, values and power relations embedded in texts; and for reading texts for various purposes, such as enjoyment, research, and critique.

Rationale for teaching the language skills

Listening and speaking are central to learning in all subjects. Through effective listening and speaking strategies, learners collect and synthesise information, construct knowledge, solve problems, and express ideas and opinions. Critical listening skills enable learners to recognise values and attitudes embedded in texts and to challenge biased and manipulative language. All these oral communication skills are conveyed through the appropriate use of language structures. The learning of language structure should aid successful communication and be linked to the functional uses of language in different social settings, e.g. expressing one’s thoughts or feelings; introducing people; giving directions and instructions. The listening skills taught will be determined by the type of oral text and the aims of the listener.

Reading and viewing are central to successful learning across the curriculum, as well as for full participation in society and the world of work. Learners develop proficiency in reading and viewing a wide range of literary and non-literary texts, including visual texts. Learners recognise how genre and register reflect the purpose, audience, and context of texts. The understanding and interpretation of written and visual material are determined by the learners’ knowledge of language structures, conventions, and their own life experiences. Language structures help learners to understand the way in which texts are structured. Learners must apply pre-reading, reading and post-reading strategies that help them to comprehend and interpret a wide variety of texts, e.g. predicting, clarifying, and evaluating. Learners must apply pre-reading strategies such as skimming and scanning text features, parts of a book and the structure of paragraphs/texts and learn how they contribute to meaning. Learners must be assisted to acquire vocabulary through reading a wide variety of texts. By this final phase of schooling, however, many of these activities should need little individual emphasis: they have been part of the learners’ progress through preceding phases.

Writing and presenting allows learners to construct and communicate thoughts and ideas coherently. Frequent writing practice across a variety of contexts, tasks and subject fields enables learners to communicate functionally and creatively. The aim is to produce competent, versatile writers who use their skills to develop and present appropriate written, visual and multi-media texts for a variety of purposes. Knowledge of language structures and conventions will enable learners to produce coherent and cohesive texts. Language structures should be taught for constructing texts in their context of use. The application of language structures should not be restricted to the analysis of isolated sentences. It should explain the way in which sentences are structured to construct whole texts such as stories, essays, letters and reports which learners learn to read and write in school.

The above skills should be integrated. In integrating these skills, the focus on one skill can lead to practice in another. For example, a learner involved in a debate will read an argumentative/discursive essay and then produce his own written argumentative/discursive essay using language structures such as synonyms and antonyms, negations and conjunctions, etc.
Language structures and conventions play an important role in understanding and producing oral and written texts and should therefore be integrated with the above-mentioned language skills.

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