Challenges and Complexities Faced by Teachers and Learners in the Teaching and Learning of Cultural Aspects of the Ndebele Language in the Gwanda South District of Zimbabwe.

AuthorMatsa, Winniefridah
PositionZimbabwe: The Royal Residence - Report

Background of the Study

According to Cutshall (2012), the study of another language is inseparable from the study of that culture. He goes on to say, the true content of the second language is not the grammar and the vocabulary of the language but the culture expressed through that language. In support of this view, Miladnovic (2013) asserts that students cannot truly master the language until they have also mastered the cultural context in which the language occurs. Cutshall (2012) maintains that there is no true communication without some demonstration of cultural knowledge and sensitivity. He goes on to say cultural knowledge and cultural appropriate skills play an important role in interpersonal, interpretive and presentational modes of communication. In the same vein, Ukessays (2014) states that the ability to communicate successfully with native speakers of a particular language depends not only on language skills but also on comprehension of cultural habits and expectations.

According to Abbaspour (2012), language and culture are inseparable and culture learning must be an integral part of language learning. He further states that the culture of a second language must be taught alongside the language itself. In addition he posits that the idea of a second language and its cultural aspects have been actualized and reflected in textbooks in various ways. This draws interest to the cultural aspects of the Ndebele language under study. According to Nash (2007) cultural aspects describes a people's way of life. It can be religion, spirituality, economic, family and community life, sports, government, food and art. Cultural aspects in this study, describe interpersonal relations for example family structure, traditional diet, tools, utensils, belief systems, clothing, interpersonal relationships, and ritual behaviours practiced by the Ndebele people for example in marriage and death of an individual among others.

However, Weininger and Kiss (2013) suggest that an approach that examines learning materials as carriers of cultural information alone cannot do justice to the complex process through which cultural meanings emerge. Harmad (2013) points out that cultural meaning is socially constructed by the interaction of the different perspectives. As a result, students who work with the materials are limited in their attempt to draw cultural interpretation (Weininger and Kiss, 2013). Moreover, they argue that the connection between textual and visual information in a language teaching material is generally greatly denotational. That is, image and text serve the purpose of reinforcing referential or lexical meaning forcing learners to focus on linguistic forms at the expense of exploring cultural connotations.

As a result, Abbaspour (2012) notes that although the importance of culture in language classes is known to any teacher and anyone who has something to do with language teaching, teaching of culture is somewhat limited and not optimally fulfilled.

Pupils attending secondary education in Gwanda South District come from different linguistic backgrounds such as Sotho, Venda, Ndebele and Shona speaking communities. This being the case, Non-Ndebele speakers are not familiar with the cultural aspects of the Ndebele language like the rituals performed during birth, marriage and death of an individual. Teachers who are believed to conduct such lessons do not know the cultural aspects of the Ndebele language and their cultures differ from those of learners they teach. This article, therefore, explores problems faced by learners in learning the cultural aspects of the Ndebele language and to establish strategies that can be implemented to improve effective teaching of cultural concepts of the Ndebele language.

By identifying problems faced by learners in learning cultural aspects of the Ndebele language, this helps Ndebele teachers to design suitable methods and teaching aids that accommodate all learners with different cultural backgrounds. This study helps teachers to be more creative for effective teaching of the Ndebele language. Identification and recommendation of strategies that can be employed to mitigate the challenges faced by learners helps school administrator to boost the performance of learners to higher levels hence contributing to the achievement of objectives of Ndebele curriculum at secondary school level.

The study was carried out in multicultural schools with learners coming from Suthu, Venda and Shona cultural backgrounds. However, multicultural education in Zimbabwe is topical. The handling of minority issues reveals some of the insufficiencies of the education system leading to failure to address appropriately multicultural challenges of learners from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds (Mapuranga and Bukaliya, 2014).

Theoretical Framework: Socio-Cultural Theory

Socio-cultural perspective and multiculturalism are theories that inspired the paper. The socio-cultural theory by Vgotsky (1978) posits that language is the most important tool and a cultural artefact that humans possess to mediate their connection to the world, to each other and to themselves. Turuk (2008) believes that the fundamental concepts of socio-cultural theory is its claim that human mind is mediated. In the same vein, Fahim and Haghani (2012) state that socio-cultural theory considers human mental functioning as essentially a mediated process organized by cultural artefacts, activities and concepts. Therefore, they suggest that the existing cultural artefacts enable human beings to regulate and modify their behavioural and biological activities. Fahim and Haghani (2012) assert that in socio-cultural theory, learning is thought of as a social event taking place as result of interaction between the learner and the environment. Turuk (2008), takes it further when he states that the learning process is not a solitary exploration of the environment by the child on his own, it is the child's appropriation of the methods and actions that exist in a given culture that enable him to learn.

According to Turuk (2008), the child is completely dependent on other people usually the parents who initiate the child's action by instructing him or her on what to do. Parents being representative of culture, actualize these instructions primarily through a language. Thus according to Ponarac (2010), culture creates language and the individual describes his views using the language that is the product of his culture. The socio-cultural theory believes that the developmental process occur as the outcome of child's participation in cultural, linguistic and historical settings. It further states that human social and mental activity is organized through culturally constructed artefacts (Turuk, 2008). Thomas (2014) is of the idea that young native speakers acquire the linguistic system as well as the codes and the cultural concepts conveyed by their mother tongue within a given cultural framework which help them describe reality in that cultural lens. Therefore, culture is the basis and one of the most important attributes of language such that if there is no culture, language will be like water without a source or a tree without roots (Sun, 2013). According to Sun (2013), the cultural knowledge is directly associated with the target language and should be regarded as first and foremost in second language teaching. According to her, teachers usually focus on the language points while neglecting the importance of cultural aspects in second language teaching. Most students know a lot of words and grammar very well but they lack the ability to use the language properly (Sun, 2013). Therefore, she argues that if students do not know the cultural background behind the language, they cannot understand and use the language well. The connection between culture and language is established with the birth of an individual (Ponarac, 2010). Pupils in Gwanda South District learn their first languages at primary level yet are required to learn Ndebele language at secondary level. Culture seems to play an important role in acquiring first language yet posing challenges when learning the second language (Sun, 2013). Cultural values are both reflected by and carried through language such that second language learners often use native language patterns in learning target language resulting in inappropriate forms in the target language.

Literature Review

Multicultural Perspective and Importance of Multicultural Education

According to McDough (2008), multiculturalism has its foundation in the civil rights movement and the ethnic social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Celek (2010) notes that multicultural education is an outgrowth of the ethnic studies of the 1960s, with deep roots in the African-American ethnic movements that emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He points out that it grew out of the demands of ethnic groups to be included in the curricular of schools, colleges and universities. The instructional materials, oppressive teaching approaches, standardized texts, classroom climate and other symptoms of an unwell and unjust education system were uncovered, discussed and criticized during the 1980s (Gorski, 1999).

In these movements, there was a demand for the recognition of differences, not as means of integrating minority populations into the dominant society but instead, to establish a persistent and virtual ground for the sustenance and empowerment of different ethnic groups (McDough, 2008).

Marshall (1998) defines multi-cultural society as a society characterized by cultural pluralism. In this work, multicultural society is a society made up of the Ndebele, Shona, Venda and Sotho speaking pupils in Manama cluster in Gwanda South District.

Multicultural education is defined as any form of teaching that incorporates the perspectives, texts, histories, values, and beliefs of people from different cultural...

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