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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
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BESTER, Garfield  and  NOKE, Deseré. Variables which relate to the achievement of black high school learners in Afrikaans as a second language. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2016, vol.56, n.2-2, pp.641-659. ISSN 2224-7912.

Since 1994, more and more students from other culture groups and languages have been attending traditionally Afrikaans speaking schools, which necessitated these schools not only to offer Afrikaans as a home language, but also as a second language. Learning a language, like any other learning activity, is influenced by several factors. Bloom (1976:11) distinguishes in his learning model (this is also the model that will be used in this investigation) between three groups of variables which relate to learning and achievement, namely cognitive variables, affective variables and the quality of instruction. It is, however, difficult to investigate quality of instruction, since different teachers instruct a second language. Consequently, it was decided in the current investigation to focus on the manner in which the learners teach themselves, or stated differently, the learning style they follow. With regard to cognitive variables high school learners find themselves, according to Piaget's theory, in a transition phase between the concrete operational and formal operational stage. However, students ' thinking abilities do not develop in the same way and the transition to the formal operational stage does not occur at exactly the same age (Ojose 2008:26-30). This has important implications for achievement in a language. The importance of cognitive factors with regard to the acquisition of a second language has been examined by international researchers (Dekeyser 2000 499-533; Robinson 2005:235-268). Wetzels, Kester, Van Merriënboer and Brothers (2011:274-291) as well as Krekeler (2006:99-130) have shown a relationship between prior knowledge and achievement in a second language. Research done more recently in a South African context deals with aspects such as multiple intelligence (Van den Berg 2004:279-294), the value of reading activities (Van Wyk 2005:113-115), language transfer (Stander 2001:107-122), figurative language (van der Merwe 2008:45-64) and assessment tasks (Van den Berg 2004:279-294). Affective variables such as self-concept, motivation and anxiety are often associated with language performance (Ni 2012:1509). The investigations of Gose, Wooden andMuller (2001:279-287) as well as Kaniuka (2010:184-188) have shown that self-concept correlates positively with language performance while Engin (2009:1035-1042) and Shirbagi (2010:1-14) highlighted the importance of motivation. Awan, Azher, Anwar and Naz (2010:33-40) showed that Pakistan students learning English as a second language experience anxiety. Pappamihiel (2002:327-356) obtained similar results for Mexican students. As far as learning style is concerned Peacock (2001:5-20) investigated Chinese students who learned English as a second language. It was found that all learners had a particular learning style, that teachers 'preferred learning styles do not necessarily correspond with the style that learners prefer, different learning styles can be attained and that performance in a second language (in this case English) improved as a result of a combination of learning styles. Research on international level cannot simply be made applicable to black learners studying Afrikaans. Black learners are not taught in their native language, but in English, which is already their second language. Strictly speaking, Afrikaans for the majority of black learners, is in fact not a second language, but a third language. Another problem is that previous investigations do not simultaneously include cognitive and affective variables, nor quality of instruction or learning style. It is therefore difficult to determine which of these variables may be considered important in order to explain the variance in the performance of Afrikaans as a second language. The aims of the current investigation study were firstly to determine how achievement in Afrikaans relates to achievement in English which is the medium of instruction for most black learners. The second aim was to determine which cognitive factors relate to achievement in Afrikaans and thirdly which affective factors relate to achievement in Afrikaans. The fourth aim was to compare the achievement in Afrikaans of learners with different learning styles, and the fifth aim was to determine which of the variables mentioned above can be considered the most important in explaining the variance in the achievement of Afrikaans as a second language. An empirical investigation was carried out with a sample of 174 learners in grades 8, 9, 10 and 11 (54 boys and 120 girls). A correlation coefficient of r=0.60; p<0.01 was obtained between Afrikaans as a second language and English as the medium of instruction, indicating a significant positive correlation. Significant positive correlations were also obtained between the cognitive variables (development of thought, verbal comprehension and memory) and achievement in Afrikaans. The highest correlation was between verbal comprehension and achievement in Afrikaans (r=0.34; p<0.01). Significant positive correlations were obtained between the self-concept of learners and their achievement in Afrikaans (r=0,52; p<0.01) and between the motivation of learners and their achievement in Afrikaans (r=0,37; p<0.01). A significant negative correlation was obtained between the anxiety of learners and their achievement in Afrikaans (r=-0,37; p<0.01). No significant difference in the average Afrikaans performance of the learners with different learning styles could be shown. Self-concept, memory, verbal comprehension and motivation were identified as the most important variables. These variables explained 39% of the variance in the achievement of Afrikaans. From the results, two specific recommendations are made: Firstly, verbal comprehension emerged as a major cognitive variable which underlines the importance of reading. Secondly, teachers should be aware that affective factors, with particular reference to the self-concept of learners, fulfil an important role in the class where a second language is taught.

Keywords : Adolescence; black learners; second language; achievement; Afrikaans; cognitive variables; affective variables; learning style; self-concept; memory; verbal comprehension; motivation.

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