Language in Malawian universities: an investigation into language use and language attitudes amongst students and staff

Reilly, Colin (2019) Language in Malawian universities: an investigation into language use and language attitudes amongst students and staff. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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It has been suggested that poor and ill-fitting language policies within Africa have led to a majority of its population being unable to effectively engage with education systems within their countries (Djite 2008). Language-in-education policies in Malawi are a prime example of this as Malawi’s language planning has repeatedly been criticised and epitomises the tension between the competing positions of English and the twelve Malawian languages in the country (Kayambazinthu 1998, Moyo 2001, Breton 2003). In 2014 a new language-in-education policy was announced in Malawi, which positioned English as the sole language to be used within education. This has led to increased debate around the appropriateness of English versus Malawian languages for educational purposes (Chiwanda 2014, Gwengwe 2014, see also Miti 2015a). A key criticism of Malawi’s language-in-education policies is that they are not developed based on sociolinguistic evidence (Moyo 2001), despite claims that sociolinguistic studies can play a crucial role in the creation and implementation of successful and beneficial language policies (Kishindo 2008, Mtenje 2013). Through investigating the ways in which the languages in Malawi co-exist within higher education, this study therefore seeks to provide sociolinguistic evidence which can be used to inform the policy debate in Malawi.

The sociolinguistic situation in Malawian universities is ascertained through investigating the language attitudes and patterns of language use of individuals within them. Individuals in Malawian higher education have a variety of linguistic repertoires and this study explores: how students and staff make use of their multilingual linguistic repertoires to facilitate teaching, learning, and socialising in their institutions; the attitudes of students and staff towards the suitability of particular languages within higher education; and the impact this could have on educational language policy. The study adopts a linguistic ethnographic approach with methods including: participant observation; participant recording; interviews; and focus groups. Results show that Malawian universities are multilingual environments in which translanguaging occurs in both social and academic contexts. Students and staff show strongly positive attitudes towards the use of English within higher education and generally negative attitudes towards the use of Malawian languages. However, participants also exhibit favourable attitudes towards the use of a flexible language policy which embraces the multilingual reality of students and staff within the universities and allows translanguaging practices to take place.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Language policy, language-in-education, translanguaging, Malawi, higher education.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Anderson, Professor Wendy and Smith, Professor Jennifer
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Mr Colin / CR Reilly
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-41150
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2019 14:32
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2020 21:29
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.41150

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