South Africa is well-known as a country that has undergone enormous political, social, educational and economic change since the days of apartheid. Independence and democracy can only be said to have arrived as late as 1994, with the negotiated settlement that led to a new non-racial constitution. The constitution recognises eleven of the country’s languages as official; and multilingualism remains a strong force in South African life. Yet while indigenous languages like Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho continue to grow as the majority languages of the country, so too has English, as a first language and – to a larger extent – a second language.
A special issue of English Today focuses on the sociolinguistics and linguistic characteristics of the main varieties of English in the country. The initial article discusses English as a first language offshoot of British English and the role played by the gold-mining city of Johannesburg in the development of a distinct South African English in the late 19th C. Subsequent articles focus on the spread of English and its characteristic features in different communities.
Black South African English is the variety that has prospered the most since 1994, being a major variety to be heard in the media, in parliament, at public gatherings and so forth. The major grammatical characteristics of this variety spoken as a second language are discussed from the vantage point of corpus linguistics in two of the articles.
Social change evident in the deracialising schooling systems has brought about immense changes in young peoples’ speech repertoires. In this regard one article explores the attitudes of young Black students at high school in relation to cultural and linguistic diversity. Another documents a shift in dominance amongst young Coloured people in the Western Cape from a bilingualism that previously had English as a second language to one that plays down Afrikaans in favour of English.
Two studies focus on Asian migrants in South Africa. The first discusses lexicographical work pertaining to the country’s Indian community; the second discusses adaptations made by new Chinese migrants in South Africa, showing the importance of Xhosa as well as English in rural Eastern Cape settings. Other articles examine the nature of literary translation using South African English as a medium. Three short book notices on varieties of English in South Africa round off the issue.
Follow this link to read the entire special issue of English Today
Blog post written by Rajend Mesthrie.
The most recent issue of English Today (28/3) is a special issue on the topic of ‘English in China today’. It includes ten articles dealing with different aspects of the spread of English and the uses of English in contemporary China, with contributions from leading Chinese academics as well as commentators from outside the country.
The articles in this special issue provide a fascinating insight into the uses of English in today’s China, with articles on the demographics of English learning, English in the academy, creative writing, English on the Internet, and much else. Nevertheless, in spite of the insights that these articles provide, my own feeling is that the current spread of the English language within the borders of this most populous nation actually still present us with a Chinese puzzle of quite some proportion.
This is for a number of reasons. According to Chinese government sources, the number of English learners/knowers in the Middle Kingdom is now around 400 million, which represents around one third of China’s population. But here, the essential questions are who actually uses English in China on a regular basis, and for what purposes? This is a puzzle because most of those millions of learners believe that English is somehow an important part of their future, but the reality within China is that few workplaces actually require much in the way of spoken English. The reality is that most people are learning English because they need it to pass the endless ladder of competitive exams. But spoken English is not assessed.
A second puzzle is the aspiration to study overseas. In the mid 2000s, the outflow of students from China appeared to be holding steady, but then suddenly started rising. According to the latest statistics, there are 158,000 students from China studying in the US, and a similar number in Europe. Here a central question relates to the role of English in these young academic emigrant lives. Will such students remain overseas, or return to China? What then will the impact of the current fashion for international education be on the cultural and social life of China as it continues to develop as an economic world leader? It is not just the number of Chinese students going overseas which is increasing, but also the number returning.
These are not purely linguistic issues, but English does play a key role in such processes, and is likely to do so for many decades to come. The articles in the special issue help us at least see the puzzles a little more clearly.
You can read the entire special issue without charge until the 31st October here
Post written by David Graddol, Co-Editor English Today
Cambridge Journals Online launched in 1997, and one and a half decades later continues to evolve. At Cambridge Journals, we’re extremely proud of what we’ve achieved over the past fifteen years. CJO is arguably as close to a tailor-made resource as you’ll find in academic publishing. Developed, built and maintained by a crack team of software developers based in Manila. Nurtured and specified by in-house editors, marketers and production staff. Informed by consultation with journal editors, societies, academics and librarians. CJO is loaded with fresh new features three times a year, available on all platforms (including mobile), twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
For the next fifteen days (until the 3rd October) we’ve decided to make a birthday gift. Go to any journal homepage, and you’ll find a new, golden tab. There, the fifteen most-downloaded papers from that journal are available to read for free. We’ve done this for every single journal we publish. Make your way there by browsing our full list of Language and Linguistics journals. As well as being able to download papers to your desktop, or read them on your phone or tablet, you’ll be able to send papers to your Kindle to read at your leisure. Just look for the Send to Kindle links in the left hand article menu and in the headers.
We’re sure you’ll find something amongst all that free content to illuminate and inspire. By all means, spread the word. We’ve introduced some handy links on most pages to tweet, like, +1 or otherwise share articles or this post.
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Here’s to the next fifteen years!
During a recent research project at UCL a number of motivated English teachers were invited to attend a series of ‘grammar days’ where they were provided with training in basic concepts of English grammar. The event highlighted the fact that only two out of the twenty attendees could recall being explicitly taught English grammar with a majority being self-taught. This re-affirmed the belief that teachers do not feel confident teaching English grammar.
What came out of the feedback discussions was that teachers need an accessible and enjoyable way to learn about grammar and to teach it to their students. Information technology had previously offered this opportunity in the form of the hugely popular ‘Internet Grammar of English’ which since its publication in 1996 has received well over three million hits.
Enter the app…
So-called ‘smartphones’ offer a new way of studying grammar on the go. Launched in late August 2011 the interactive Grammar of English (iGE) App is based on the ‘Internet Grammar of English’. Specific considerations were made for smartphone users such as using digestible text, which was split and simplified to make explanations readable on a small screen. The mechanisms of tapping and swiping were also implemented. The set of exercises that was already present in the earlier web resource was expanded and supplemented to ensure they are dynamic, responsive and interesting.
Article written by Bas Aarts, Dan Clayton and Sean Wallis, University College London
Read the full article from English Today here
NB. This app is a spin-off of a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) entitled Creating a Web-Based Platform for English Language Teaching and Learning